Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Yesterday & The Future

Today is the last day of the year. This is the time when I reminisce about the year gone by and look towards the future.

These were the highlights of my life in 2008:

2008 Flashback

  1. I backpacked solo to Egypt in February 2008. What an enriching, memorable and eye-opening experience it was!

  2. Joined a Malaysian multinational in March 2008.

  3. Started French lessons in the same month.

  4. This blog was born in June 2008, thanks to Angie who encouraged me to blog. And this blog has not 'died' after 7 months in existence.

  5. My freelance writing kicked off in September 2008.

  6. I backpacked to Vientaine & Luang Prabang in December 2008. In fact as this entry enters cyberspace, I should be in Vientaine (thanks to Blogger for the scheduled posting feature). Can't wait to get back to KL to blog 'bout my adventures in Laos! Don't forget to come back and read all 'bout it ya!

Now here are my resolutions for the New Year:

My New Year Resolutions

  1. To create a blog about my freelance writing projects. This blog will document anything and everything about my freelance writing endeavour - my work that got published, my experiences dealing with Editors and clients, the freelance writing experience itself, etc.

  2. To loose 3kgs. I think I'd look like a skeleton by the time I achieve my desired weight. But it feels great to be thin!

  3. To take my French lessons more seriously. This means allocating another 2 hours per week (apart from official lessons) for revising and homework.

What's your New Year resolution?

Thursday, 25 December 2008


  • Attended Christmas Mass - Check
  • Christmas Eve dinner with family - Check
  • Pack bags - Check
  • Booked cab to LCCT - Check
As I embark on my one week trip to Laos, I would like to wish you and your family

Merry Christmas &
Happy New Year 2009!

Friday, 19 December 2008

My New Travel Gear

This is my new Deuter backpack.

Costs me RM375 after a 20% discount from URL Outdoor in Bangsar. I especially bought it for my Laos trip this coming Thursday.

I was initially hesitant to spend so much on a backpack, but what the heck, if I'm going to conquer all 7 continents, might as well do it comfortably, practically and in style.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Conquering the Continents

Last night I was reading this online article: 50 Things To Do Before You Die.

Number one on the list says: "Set foot on each of the seven continents. Antarctica might be a tough one, but once you’ve reached all seven you can truly call yourself a world traveler."

I thought that idea was cool and decided to make that one of my travel goals, although getting to Antarctica would be a great challenge.

The seven continents are Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. Not counting Asia cause I'm living in it, I've only been to the continent of Africa. So that's 5 more continents to go ...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Why Do Malaysians Discriminate Africans?

I was reading this newspaper article in The Star today: Hostile reception pushes Bostwanian students to the brink of suicide.

And this evening I saw with my own eyes discrimination against Africans.

I was queuing for a cab at the Ampang LRT station. There were two African guys who were also in queue a few places in front of me.

Many taxis came and picked up passengers. When it was the African guys' turn, the driver drove by slowly, took a look at them and drove off. Those poor guys could only look helplessly as the cab drove off. Luckily the next cab picked them up.

This was the first time I'm seeing discrimination happen in front of my eyes.

These blatant discriminations against Africans have gotten quite rampant these days, especially with the increasing number of African students in KL.

Now, Malaysia being a multiracial country has accepted many foreign workers like the folks from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam Myanmar, Nepal, etc. Apart from foreign workers, we've also gotten used to the rising number of folks from South Korea and the Middle East.

We have gotten so used to all these foreigners that we don’t bat an eyelid when we see them on the bus or at the mamak stall. We have accepted them as part of our society.

Of cause there have been cases of discrimination against these foreign workers, but these are isolated cases, and not so deliberate compared to discrimination against the Africans.

The question is why are Malaysians able to accept other foreigners but blatantly discriminate the Africans? Is it because of the way the Africans look? Or the way they talk?

As a frequent cab user, let me share with you two stories involving Africans told to me by the cab drivers:

  • One driver picked up a group of Africans. After dropping them off at their destination, his cellphone was missing.
  • Another driver told this African guy he picked up to get out of his cab because the guy was kurang ajar (misbehaved). After reaching the destination, the guy asked the driver to go to another destination instead. After the third change in destination, the driver lost his cool and told the guy to get out of the cab.

I’ve also encountered and heard other stories like these:

  • I was sitting in the bus when this African guy shouted "mother fu*ker" in a friendly gesture at his friend who got off the bus. His voice was deep and loud, almost shattered my eardrums.
  • A girl got molested by a group of African guys in my apartment lift. They gained access into the apartment compound by following their friends who were staying there.
  • A group of African guys observed the girls at the apartment and where they lived. After a report made by girls claiming that these guys were knocking at their doors to get to know them, the building management decided to ban all Africans from entering the compound unless they are staying there.

The stories I've shared are only a handful in the numerous negative cases about these Africans. There are numerous others like the black money and internet scandal. Maybe the culprits only come from certain African countries but for Malaysians, all Africans are the same cause they look the same.

After all these incidences, it's not a wonder why Malaysians are discriminating the Africans. It could be a case of cultural differences, but many Malaysians see the Africans as troublemakers out to do no good. And Malaysians are hostile towards them because of their intolerable behaviours.

I’m sure there’re many genuine and good Africans in KL, but the bad ones outnumber them. This is truly a case of one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

My First French Storybook

I received my first French storybook - Le Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery last week. (Note: Le Petit Prince means The Little Prince).

Why Le Petit Prince? Cause my French teacher recommended it. Apparently the French version is better than the English translation (for those who are bilingual in both languages). Moreover it's not difficult to read for beginners.

I had placed an order for this book with the Times Bookstore in Pavilion. A wait that was supposed to take bout 2 months took 5 months instead. After enquiring numerous times at the bookstore only to receive stupid excuses like there was a delay in shipment, wrong version was sent, etc. I finally received it.

The feeling of owning my first French storybook is unusual after owning English books all this while. Le Petit Prince would look odd sitting on my bookshelf with its other 'English speaking friends'. But I'm planning to buy more French storybooks soon. Then Le Petit Prince won't be so lonely anymore.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Rambling Out of Boredom

This morning has been SO ... boring that I'm banging this post out of boredom, and so that the minutes till lunch will fly by. So bear with me cause it's gonna be just ramblings.

  • My friend Raymond Hee is stranded at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok because of the problem there. This is his chance to become like Tom Hanks in Terminal Man. Raymond, comments please when you get back ...

  • I'm gonna have nasi kerabu for lunch today. There's this market opposite my office that sells one of the best nasi kerabu I've tasted. The market is exactly like a pasar malam (night market) selling food and all. But since it operates in the daytime and only on Fridays, I call it pasar siang (day market). Imagine a pasar siang in the middle of the city! I'm so gonna blog about it soon, and the nasi kerabu as well.

  • I might wanna go to the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas to get tickets for The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Symphony Orchestra from 19 - 21 December 2008. But I still can't decide whether to go for the Friday evening or Sunday matinee show.

  • I'm working on an Evening Talk for employees this Wednesday. Topic: Empowering the Disabled. Unfortunately only 2 people have signed up! That's right .. only 2 out of the hundreds of staff in the company! Must think of a contingency plan after lunch ... Otherwise the poor sight impaired folks from Brickfields will have no people to give massages to.

  • Exactly one month from today I'll be in Luang Prabang! Can't bloody wait for it!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A Lazy Sunday ...

Here I am surfing the internet on a Sunday morning when my mum asked me to follow her to a lunch at a church friend's house. The family's second child received Holy Communion this morning and they are celebrating the occasion with family and friends.

I woke up at 11.00am this morning, had tosai and tea, read the papers, gave directions (via phone) to a friend who got lost in Klang town, but still haven't washed my face or bathe.

I can't seem to pull myself to do anything else because I'm SO ... lazy ...

But now I need to wash my face, put on a bra (I don't wear a bra when I'm at home), slap on sunblock and powder and drag myself to the lunch which is a 5-minute walk from my house.

And I'm still full with the tosai and tea ... so how to eat some more at the lunch?

Suddenly I realise I still have 5 more articles to complete for the kid's project, and the deadline is tomorrow!

Friday, 21 November 2008

More Freelance Work

Recently I received another writing project that will take up most of my free time till February next year.

I need to write 82 articles on various careers, each article about 350 - 500 words. Target audience: kids between 9 - 13 years old.

Apart from my 82 articles, there are a few other writers working concurrently on other career articles. All the articles will be compiled into a book and distributed at a fair in March next year. More on that in this blog when the book is out.

This will be the first time I'm writing for kids and I keep reminding myself that the language has to be simple. The Editor had also told me that the articles have to be "chatty and informative". This is sometimes easier said than done - Try explaining what an Actuary does in simple language.

So if you're wondering why my blog entries have dwindled in number recently, it's because of this new project. In fact, when I agreed to do the 82 articles, I've signed away my afterwork activities - Aloha, Hard Rock Cafe and the movies, at least till February ...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Why Do I Blog

Because blogging equals to writing and writing is something I do rather well.

Because I want to share my knowledge and experiences, and hopefully learn much more in return.

Because I want to improve my wordsmith touch.

Because I want to make new friends.

Because the workload in my current employment is not so heavy, and I want to kill time rather than idle my office hours away.

Because blogging is an avenue for my relatives and friends to know what I'm up to.

Because I want to earn pocket money (still working on it); and most importantly,

Because my previous employer refused to confirm me; she said my writing sucks. And now I want to tell her, "Go to hell! This is me at my writing best!"

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Why I Won't Do An MBA

There was once I asked my god daughter if she was interested in doing an MBA. She said "definitely not". She came to that decision after having close encounters with an MBA grad whose realm of knowledge consists of handbags, handbags and only handbags.

I used to have a deep yearning to study for an MBA. I thought having an MBA would open career opportunities for me. I also bought books on MBA and spoke to many MBA students to learn from their experiences.

As I grew older, my interest in doing an MBA started to lapse. This is because of my own experiences with many MBA graduates who did not live up to their name of MBA grad.

I personally know of MBA grads holding senior positions in big corporations who:

  • Thinks that a Six Sigma Black Belt is a martial arts qualification.

  • Argues that in accounting, if the actual amount spent is higher than the amount budgetted, it would be a positive (+) sign instead of a negative (-) sign. OMG!!!

  • Have never heard of Blue Ocean Strategy.

  • Is in-charge of Corporate Social Responsibility but doesn't know what's 'OKU'.

  • Consistently copies what other departments and companies are doing in related areas of work.

  • Speaks like an uneducated person.
(I could go on and on ... but it would only embarass MBA grads everywhere.)

I wonder what did they learn in the 2 years or so studyng for their MBA. Did they use the time to play marbles?

On the other hand I personally know of many non-MBA graduates who have made a mark for themselves in the corporate world without having an MBA tucked under their belt. They are intelligent, well read and matured in their thoughts and actions. Kind of reminds me of the movie Good Will Hunting (look below for a brilliant dialogue from the movie about acquiring knowledge without having formal education).

I'm not saying that doing an MBA is a bad thing and that all MBA graduates are ignorant. It all depends on how the student uses the opportunity to learn as much as possible and make him/herself a more knowledgeable and better person during their MBA studies.

And more importantly to always keep abreast with current affairs by reading, reading and reading after graduating. Learning is something you do from womb to tomb.

At this point in life, I feel that it's not having an MBA that matters, but how interested I am in acquiring knowledge. And I can do all that through many avenues like reading, surfing the internet, attending courses, exchanging ideas with friends, etc.

But also at the end of the day, to climb the corporate ladder, it's not what you know, but who you know that counts.

Brilliant Dialogue from Good Will Hunting

Chuckie: All right, are we gonna have a problem?

Clark: There's no problem. I was just hoping you could give me some insight into the evolution of the market economy in the early colonies. My contention is that prior to the Revolutionary War the economic modalities, especially of the southern colonies could most aptly be characterized as agrarian pre-capitalist and...

Will: [interrupting] Of course that's your contention. You're a first year grad student. You just got finished some Marxian historian, Pete Garrison prob’ly, you’re gonna be convinced of that until next month when you get to James Lemon, then you’re gonna be talkin’ about how the economies of Virginia and Pennsylvania were entrepreneurial and capitalist back in 1740. That's gonna last until next year, you’re gonna be in here regurgitating Gordon Wood, talkin’ about you know, the Pre-revolutionary utopia and the capital-forming effects of military mobilization.

Clark: [taken aback] Well, as a matter of fact, I won't, because Wood drastically underestimates the impact of--

Will: ..."Wood drastically underestimates the impact of social distinctions predicated upon wealth, especially inherited wealth..." You got that from "Work in Essex County," Page 98, right? Yeah I read that too. Were you gonna plagiarize the whole thing for us- you have any thoughts of- of your own on this matter? Or do - is that your thing, you come into a bar, you read some obscure passage and then you pretend - you pawn it off as your own - your own idea just to impress some girls? Embarrass my friend?
[Clark is stunned]

Will: See the sad thing about a guy like you, is in about 50 years you’re gonna start doin' some thinkin' on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don't do that. And two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin’ education you coulda' got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.

Clark: Yeah, but I will have a degree, and you'll be serving my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip.

Will: [smiles] Yeah, maybe. But at least I won't be unoriginal.

Monday, 10 November 2008

233rd United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball

Last Saturday Lady Patsy and I attended the 233rd United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball at the JW Marriot in Bukit Bintang. The ball was hosted by the Marine Security Guard Detachment of the American Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

After watching lots of NCIS and A Few Good Men, we're finally gonna see the men in uniform in the flesh!

Our preparation for the ball started in the afternoon when Lady Patsy met up with me at the YMCA in Brickfields after my French class. We then drove back to my apartment to get dressed up. But before that we stopped at Sonali's to get matching bangles and earrings for Lady Patsy's blue lengha.

By the time we reached my apartment, some bloody driver had parked their car in my lot. I complained to Security and they clamped the car. But before that, I sent my 'love' to the driver on a piece of paper and stuck it on to the windscreen. The message read: "Please don't park here anymore, stupid!" That was me being nice, I could have used more 'colourful' words ...

Cocktails began at 6.00pm and dinner at 7.00pm. By the time we did our hair and make-up, it was already 8.00pm!!!

I was hoping they would follow Malaysian timing, but these are military guys, so I guess they would be military precised in their timing.

By the time we got to the Marriot, the second course was about to be served. This means we missed the salad and the opening ceremony which was some flag procession, I heard.

But before we could enter the ballroom, we had to pass through a metal detector like the ones at the airport. Expect this at most events that involves the Americans, what more a Marine ball!

Luckily they didn't ask us to remove our shoes, otherwise I would have been pretty pissed having to tie my shoes back and already late for the ball.

Red and white wine supplied by the Embassy ran out during the second course. Only beer was available throughout the night. So those who wanted more wine had to purchase from the hotel. What a rip-off for those who paid to attend the ball!

After the last course was served, most of the guests started hitting the dance floor. After dancing for a bit, we went to snap pics outside the Grand Ballroom.

Lovely ice sculpture.

L to R: Lady Patsy, Tini Sharman and I.

This is GySgt Shaun Washausen. He is the Detachment Commander of the Marines in Kuala Lumpur. I think he looks like Robbie Williams.

Cpl Juan Machuca and I.

There were two of this on each table, and I took two sets home as souvenir.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Rest in Peace - Michael Crichton

As the world celebrates the first African-American President, I am sadden by the demise of one of my favourite author - Michael Crichton.

He passed away on November 4 at the age of 66, after a battle with cancer.

Even since reading Rising Sun, Crichton's work has never failed to fascinate me with his use of simple language and his vivid imagination. His ability to churn out stories that gripped my attention makes me want to read all his work.

My fav Michael Crichton books are:
  • Rising Sun
  • Jurassic Park
  • The Lost World
  • The Andromeda Strain
  • Congo
Michael, the world will miss your literary genius. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Profile of an Internet Dating Conman

I was having dinner with a friend today and the topic of internet dating scams came up. We exchanged notes and here are some pointers on how to identify an internet dating conman.

  • A huge majority of these conmen come from Nigeria.
  • He usually poses as a single parent with a young daughter/son, has a good job and is a Caucasian from either the United States or United Kingdom. His wife would have died in a car crash or some illness.
  • Inconsistent information. There was this guy I was corresponding with who referred to his kid as a 'he' and sometimes as a 'she'. Unless his child is gay, I don't think a parent could mix up the sex of his child.
  • Notice how he always talks about other things (like declaring his deep love for you) but never talks about himself. This is because there's nothing to talk about himself, his whole life is a lie.
  • When you ask for his pic, he'll email you someone else's pic - usually a Caucasian guy's and claim that's him. One give-away is the pics will be blur, which means he would have gleaned it from cyberspace.
  • He will declare his deep love for you by the third email, latest. Can a person fall in love with someone so fast without even knowing you? I can't, for sure.
  • He'll want to fly all the way to your country to visit you very early in the relationship.
  • When he gives you his number, check and see if the country code is +234 (Nigeria's country code). Some of these cheats are not too bright and won't expect the girl to check on the country code. But girls are smarter these days.

Now you might be thinking what are the motives of these conmen. Why do they go through all the trouble to pose as somebody else?

Well, the main motive is usually to cheat the potential victim off her hard earned money. And he'll usually do this by convincing the girl he's in a dire situation like stranded in a foreign country while on his way to visit the girl and needs money badly.

Well, I hope these pointers will come in handy in case an email from a hunky male Caucasian suddenly drops into your mailbox.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

From Floor to Bed

I've been sleeping on the floor like this ever since I moved into my new apartment 1.5 years ago.

Don't know why, but I just didn't bring myself to buy a proper bed eventhough I had the time and money to do so. Maybe I was just plain lazy.

The good thing about sleeping on the floor is that I have nurtured a healthy ramrod straight spine :-)

Last week I pushed myself to buy a bed, and after sleeping on the floor for 1.5 years, I decided to reward myself. This is how my new bed looks like:

Entire set costs me RM2,000!

And I also got this free:

Now with my new bed, I have the Petronas Twin Towers to see before I sleep and whenever I wake up. Yup, I'm one of those who have that million dollar view :-)

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Drunk Driving - Would You Get Into The Car ?

Would you get into a car with a drunk driver?

A couple of weeks back I was at the club with a few friends. One of them whom I'm closest with, had one drink too many. By the time we left she was already speaking funny and could not walk straight.

She insisted on driving me home like always, but I politely refused her offer. You see, previously she was not so intoxicated and could still pass a breathalyzer test. This time she had gone a wee bit overboard. In fact, this is the first time I'm seeing her like that.

So I advised her to leave her car in the parking lot and take the cab home. She could always collect her car the next day. But she insisted she was ok and insisted on driving me home.

I was torn in getting into the car, and torn in letting her drive home alone, but I knew too well the consequences of getting into a car with a drunk driver.

Another disappointment was her BF couldn't be bothered bout her. He just kissed her goodnight and scooted off to God knows where. Idiot!

So in the end she drove home alone and thank God eveything was ok. But I did not expect what would happen the next day.

Early next morning she posted a nasty comment on her Facebook status (but without mentioning my name). She told me to take a hike because I didn't trust her driving skills. She claimed she knew what she was doing despite being intoxicated.

I was angry and disappointed that my good intentions had backfired. I calmly sent her a message and asked why all the animosity. She said she was disappointed in me ... blah ... blah ... blah ...

She also said her boyfriend (yeah, the idiotic SOB) was also disappointed in me ... the nerve on that bugger!

To cut a long story short, I held my ground and calmly explained why I did what I had to do.

And if you're wondering if the friendship survived, yes it did. Cause I guess at the end of the day, she knows deep down inside that she took a huge risk on her own life and on the lives of innocent people.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

My Latest Endeavour - Freelance Writing

I've been doing some freelance writing for a local magazine.

I can't tell you which magazine or topics I'm working on, in case the Editor might not like me blogging about pre-published articles for the December issue. I got this job through networking and I hope my full-time job boss isn't reading this :-)

I've been assigned to do 4 company reviews, 500 words each. Apart from that I have to complete a 1,500 feature article.

Freelance writing is interesting cause I get to meet people and earn money at the same time. I hope this job will be the begining of many more freelance jobs to come cause I love writing.

I'll post an entry in this blog when my articles get published :-)

My Bad Sleeping Habit

I have a bad sleeping habit.

Everyday upon reaching home after work, I’ll do whatever I've got to do, e.g. clean the apartment, blog, check emails or surf the Net.

After all that I’ll plop myself in front of the television. While watching my fav series or movie (depending on what’s on), I’ll doze off in front of the television.

At about 2.30am I’ll suddenly wake up, cause my subconscious mind is telling me I’ve yet to bathe and brush my teeth, and I can't sleep at night without doing those two things.

By the time I’ve scrubbed my body and teeth good, I’m already wide awake. Then I’ll read or surf the Net to kill time.

By the time I get sleepy again it’s like 4am – 3 hours till time to get ready for work!

But somehow I manage with 3 hours of sleep and still able to concentrate at work :-)

So how many hours of sleep did I get?

Is it:

  • Total hours in front of the television + final 3 hours of sleep; or
  • Only 3 hours of sleep?
My mum says I shouldn't break my sleep cause it's not healthy, but like I said ... it's a bad sleeping habit.

MPH Warehouse Sale

Books are one of my weakness, and I succumbed to my weakness at the MPH Warehouse Sale in Petaling Jaya today.

In August I bought enough books at the Times Warehouse Books Clearance for the RM1,000 income tax rebate, and told myself that I won't buy books any more till next year.

But when I stepped into the MPH Warehouse Sale today and saw the marked down prices and offers, I went berserk!

This sale is even better than the Times Warehouse Books Clearance.

So I succumbed to my weakness and this is what I bought:

  • Collins Essential English Dictionary (I needed a dictionary in the office and it costs only RM10 for a hardcover)

  • Merde Happens by Stephen Clarke (Clarke's writing is witty and down to earth. I'm currently reading Talk to the Snail and it's hilarious!)

  • Morocco by Lonely Planet (Wanna go there some day, and the book costs only RM10. Imagine a Lonely Planet for RM10!)

  • Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz (Egyptology is one of my interests)

  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Always wanted to learn military strategy)

  • The New PR: An Insider’s Guide to Changing the Face of Public Relations by Phil Hall (Related to my profession)

  • The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (Wanted to see what's the Darwin hype all about)

  • The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho (Read The Alchemist and didn't see why it's such a big deal. So wanna give Coelho another chance)

Total damage: RM116

Friday, 17 October 2008

Internet Scam - Ask Yourself These Questions

My entry, Fraud in the Name of God, on the William/Rebecca Benson internet scam received a few hits from around the world (I know this through NuffNang).

I figured these people must have received a similar email and would like to know whether it’s a genuine case or not. So I’m writing this entry with the hope that those who think they have gotten lucky will see the rationale in things.

The internet lottery scam started a couple of years back and over time most people have come to know about it and are not fooled. As such, these fraudsters have changed their tactic by using charity as the new angle to trick people.

To those of you who have received a similar email – that you’ve won a lottery or you have been chosen to be recipient of a huge sum of money for charity; and you are jumping for joy thinking you are finally going to get rich, please ask yourself these questions:

  • You’ve never bought any foreign based lottery or entered any foreign based contest. So why out of the blue someone is informing you have won this huge amount of money? After playing the lottery in a few companies I can tell you no lottery company will ever do this.

  • Why would a complete stranger want to give you a huge sum of money? As far as I know, people usually donate to their favourite charities or known individuals, never to complete strangers.

  • What makes you different that the ‘donor’ chooses you above everybody else in this whole wide world to receive the money? Remember, you don’t even know this person.

I thought people were not so guilable to fall for a trick like this, until an ex-colleague amost fell into the trap. And he was a member of senior management in a well known public listed company.

I've learned that even the most experienced and smart people can be naive and guilble.

So don't be part of the statistics.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Tips to Kick-Off Solo Travel

I received an email from Audrey Umbol of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah who wants to travel out of Malaysia, but is finding it difficult to look for a travel partner. So she wants to start travelling solo and asks if I could share some tips on how to kick it off. This is my reply to her:

Dear Audrey,

Thank you for dropping by my blog :-) I totally understand your urge to travel, yet you find it difficult to look for a travel partner.

My friends too were most of the time – couldn’t apply for leave, not interested, no money, didn’t agree with the destination, etc. Soon I decided that the best is to travel solo cause I didn’t want the lack of a travel partner impede my travel dreams. I want to travel and see the world!

And you not only have to look for a travel partner, you'll have to look for the right travel partner. That means someone who shares the same interests as you, preferably of the same age, etc. But I shall leave that for another blog entry.
So Audrey, here are the some tips to kick-start your solo travels:

a) Make a short weekend trip alone to somewhere within the country or nearby your house, just to see how you like it.

Travelling alone is a lot different from travelling with a partner. You are responsible for your own safety, your luggage, where you want to go, what you want to do, etc.

If you find that you can adapt to solo travel like a duck to water, start venturing to nearby countries. Very soon you’ll be travelling the world!

b) Make sure you read up a lot about the place you want to visit because like I said, you're solely responsible for your own safety. Remember to read up about safety precautions too when walking on the road, staying in hostels, etc. This is especially important being a lady.

c) If you find that travelling solo is not your cup of tea, then try joining a tour group. You can make friends there and get to see places as well.

Just put your mind and guts to it and you'll do fine. I hope your travel dreams will come true :-) Good luck!

Regards, Julie Lim

Please leave a comment if you have more tips to share with Audrey. She will be reading this entry closely :-)

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary – A Complete Waste of Time!

There’s only one phrase to describe the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary – utter disappointment!

After seeing publicity and photos of the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, I thought it would be a nice place to visit during the Raya holidays.

But how super disappointed we were, especially after all the trouble we took to reach the damn place. For your information, the place is located about 100km from Kuala Lumpur and toll charges were RM10.80 one way. So it was a complete waste of time, petrol and toll charges. But luckily we came on the second day of Raya, cause the place was closed on the first day.

The place looked deserted when we arrived. The carpark was full of stones because tar works were being carried out.

We registered at the office

and were disappointed that tickets for activities with the elephant were already finished. We could only visit the elephants.

We then started venturing into the sanctuary. There were only 6 elephants in the enclosure and 1 baby elephant in the other enclosure having a time of its life eating sugarcane. One of the baby elephant’s hind leg was shorter than the other legs. Must have been injured so they had to amputate it. Poor thing …

The only thing interesting was watching the antics of what we believed to be a male trying to mount a female.

And when he did not get what he wanted, he was smashing a rock using his trunk.

Men …

Apart from that, there was NOTHING else in the sanctuary. Feeding time was at 2.00pm, but we didn’t bother to wait 2 hours.
It would have been ok if there are other places to go and kill time, but the place has nothing to see and do apart from the office, worker’s quarters, ringside, elephant enclosure and mini man-made river where you can bathe the elephants and ride them. This is the river where the elephants will fall into the water and you’ll get wet too. Ang mohs love this …

Apparently we were not the only ones disappointed because we could hear many exclamations of disappointment around us.

So if you decide to visit the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, please think 100 times before you go.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Getting Fat

Being fat is one of my biggest fears in life.

In my early 20s, I used to weigh 49kg. I could eat like a pig and still look like a stick. Even when donating blood they used to take less pints because of my weight.

As I grew older, I started putting on weight easily thanks to a low metabolism rate. But despite that, I still could eat whatever I wanted and still look slim.

In order to stay within my desired weight range, I put the threshold at 55kg. If I hit 55kg, I would start to diet and exercise more so that I won't reach the point of no return.

Just last week I weighted myself and to my horror, the scale hit 56kg!

That was it - drastic situations call for drastic measures.

I went on a diet that not many people could do. My daily meal intakes looked like this:

1 glass Nescafe
5 biscuits

1 bowl noodles (yee mee to be exact)


If my stomach growled too loudly at dinner, I would make myself a cup of tea and use mind over matter to quell the hunger pangs.

I must admit that this diet is not easy to keep, especially for a person like me who loves to eat. But I know that no pain, no gain.

So after 2 weeks of subjecting myself to stomach and mental torture, I weighed myself and the scales showed: 54kg!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Chinese are Like Cockroaches

One of my friends commented that the Chinese are like cockroaches - you can find us in almost every country in the world.

When I first heard that I was rather offended. Who would want to be associated with roaches, right?

But after much ruminating, I thought that that was a clever piece of thought; and I'll tell you why ...

This is what Wikipedia wrote about cockroaches:

"Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects on the planet, some species capable of remaining active for months without food, or being able to survive on limited resources like the glue from the back of postage stamps. Some can go without air for 45 minutes or slow down their heart rate. It is popularly suggested that cockroaches will 'inherit the earth' if humanity destroys itself in a nuclear war."

Now let me bring the Chinese into comparison with the roaches.

Ever since the beginning of time (I'm exaggerating here), many Chinese left the shores of China in search of a better life in foreign lands. They worked hard to build a new life for themselves and their families. Along the way they met many challenges and hurdles but they persevered.

In other words, put a Chinaman anywhere and he can survive.

If you go to most major cities in the world today, you can find a Chinatown there where the Chinese have made their homes and built businesses. And many of them are leading successful lives blending into the local community but yet maintaining their own identity and culture.

So you see ... the Chinese are like cockroaches - both are hardy and resilient!

Slow Read ...

I started reading the book above many weeks ago till I can't remember when I started. Today I’m only at page 251; that’s 262 pages more to go. I wonder why I’m dragging my feet to read this book.

Usually I can finish a book in about a week, because I read everywhere - while waiting for the bus, in queues, while waiting for a friend, at home in my free time, etc. There is always a book in my bag wherever I go.

I remember reading The Da Vinci Code and Thorn Birds. Could not put ‘em down. Finished each book in 3 days. This time it’s different.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Mamma Mia! - Don't Miss It

After my entry on The Other Boleyn Girl, this is another movie entry and I hope I won’t bore you to death.

My sister won tickets to the preview screening of Mamma Mia! courtesy of Her World magazine. So she dragged me along with two of her colleagues to GSC 1 Utama for the screening last week.

I watched the movie with no expectations at all. I didn’t read any reviews prior to the screening because reviews can screw up your mind with preconceived expectations. And you know what … I loved Mamma Mia!

It was a feel good movie with awesome scenery of that lovely Greek island, hot guys with hot bods and lots of singing and dancing. If you’re an Abba fan, I bet you’ll love the movie as much as I did.

When Voulez-Vous came on, I almost stood up and danced in the cinema. I bet the guy beside me must have been annoyed with me tapping my feet and grooving in the seat :-)

I know the audience felt the same way as I did because they clapped at the end of the movie.

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl: Recognising George Boleyn

I watched The Other Boleyn Girl twice – once at the cinema with a friend and another time with my mum on DVD.

Both times my movie partners couldn’t understand the most crucial and dark twist in the movie. Don’t read on if you don’t want a spoiler, and don’t say I didn’t warn you …

The scene I’m talking about is the scene where Anne had a miscarriage and asked her brother George to sleep with her in the hope that she’ll conceive and that the king will not know that his wife had miscarried.

Now both ladies whom I watched the movie with didn’t understand that part. My friend asked me why I was making the tsk tsk sound. When I explained to her, she said “Sei lor … how come like that one …?”

When that scene came on while I watched with my mum, I saw a blank expression on her face and I knew she didn’t understand what was going on either.

I asked my mum what she didn’t understand and she said she couldn’t recognise the guy whom Anne was asking to sleep with. I wondered how that could have happened when poor George was quite a prominent character in the movie, with a considerable number of scenes. In other words, you couldn’t have overlooked him.

Only then did I realize that they cannot tell one Mat Salleh apart from the other. You see, the movie had quite a number of male Mat Sallehs apart from George. And to the Asian eyes, all Mat Sallehs look alike. Could it be because all the men in the movie looked alike in their costumes? :-) Thank God one Boleyn sister was black haired and the other blond!

To me, the dialogue was brilliant. I loved the choice and flow of words as well as the development of the story, not to mention the rich and elegant costumes of that era.

But sadly my movie partners missed out on the development of the story because they couldn't tell one Mat Salleh apart from the other.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

My Blog's URL

I use the name Winter Swallow in my blog's URL. Now, where did I get the name from? What is the significance of the name?

Let me explain ...

My full name is Julie Lim Seet Yin, and yes, Julie is the name in my identity card, birth certificate, passport, baptism certificate, etc. Julie is not a glamour name that many Chinese people like to put in front of their Chinese name. It is my 'real' name. I get asked that a lot, you know.

If you translate my Chinese name into English, you'll need to break it up into two parts: (Lim) and (Seet Yin). So ...

  • (Lim) means Wood or Tree or Forest; and
  • (Seet Yin) means Winter Swallow
So now you know ...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

My Next Travel Adventure

I'll be backpacking to Laos for one week during the Christmas holidays this year. Just typing it out is already giving me the thrill!

The focus of this trip will be on Luang Prabang, a UNESCO Heritage City which is acclaimed to be a photographer's haven with its picturesque villages, unique architecture and friendly people.

I've booked my ticket (AirAsia, of course!) and drawn up an itinerary. Vientaine will be my point of entry into Laos. From there I'll take the night bus to Luang Prabang which is an 11-hour journey! I read that the buses are prone to breaking down, but these are experiences that makes travel memorable and fun.

Now I've got to get a new backpack and a pair of durable walking sandals and read, read read about Laos to understand and appreciate the country and its people when I get there.

Stay tuned for my travel adventures in Laos. The best is yet to come!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Mooncake Festival - Lovely Boxes & Yummy Contents

Mooncake boxes are getting prettier and more creative by the year. Gone were the days when a mooncake box is just a box to hold mooncakes. It has become creative works of art that are too lovely to throw away.

Let me show you two boxes I received this year:

This box is from Amway.

The box opens to reveal hidden goodies within. Note: I've eaten the goodies when I took this photo :-)

I received the box below from my insurance agent at ING. The cover reminded me of my mortar board on graduation day sans tassels.

Open the cover and you'll find:

  • Chocolate Cream Cheese
  • Green Tea & Milk
  • Pure Lotus 1 Yolk
  • Golden Floss

Not only a lovely box ... but also yummy contents ...

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Have you noticed that certain mirrors make you look fat?

I was at Parkson Pavilion yesterday trying on an Editor Pants (first time I've heard of such a pants). Like all natural woman trying on a pair of pants, turning to see if that piece of clothing will make my butt look fat is a must. It's a deciding factor whether I'll purchase it or not.

So I turned by butt to the mirror for that deciding factor moment. To my horror, my entire butt looked like it oozed fat and celulite, like I didn't go to the gym since days of yonder. Most pants usually don't make my butt look big, but this time it's not. Help me ... I'm becoming a pear !!!

Then I took a good look at my whole body in the mirror. This time my entire body looked fatter than usual. So it's not the pants after all ... Did my weight increase dramatically lately? Did I neglect exercise and diet till I've reached the point of no return? What happened to my hourglass figure that I worked so hard to maintain?

Right there and then I swore to go on a drastic diet and to increase my gym visits.

That evening in my office washroom, I took another look at my butt to see the horrible sight. This time my butt didn't look that fat anymore. I wonder why ...

At home I stood in all my glory before the mirror. This time I looked not too bad ...

So will the real slim mirror please stand up?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Ramadan and Food

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world fast for 30 days and observe various forms of penance.

For me, this is the month where food reigns supreme.

Ramadan is the time when I will make it a point to visit, during lunch, all the eateries which would otherwise be crowded. No jostling and waiting in long queues. And during buka puasa time I refrain from visiting these eateries to make way for those who had been fasting the whole day.

Visiting the Pasar Ramadan for buka puasa delicacies is also a must to satisfy tea time hunger pangs. When I'm back in my hometown during the weekends, my mum would buy lots of kuih muih for tea and even some lauk pauk for dinner.

During the first few days of Ramadan, my colleague was rushing home to buy his buka puasa juadah at the Pasar Ramadan. I asked him why the rush since it was only 5.30pm. He said the food finishes fast because the non-Muslims clear the spread fast.

Yesterday I blew my diet by having nasi briyani for lunch. The seller gave me a larger-than-usual portion because half of his customers are fasting and he needs to clear the food. Another good Ramadan experience ...

My female Muslim friends who are pregnant, sick or having their menses would also seek my help to buy food during lunch. I once bought food for a pregnant colleague and another friend jokingly commented, "Ah ha ... bersubahat ..." (Translation: "Ah ha ... accomplice")

The buka puasa buffet at hotels and even fast food joints are getting more expensive by the year. My favourite is the buka puasa buffet at McDonalds which was a damn good bargain. I don't know if it's on this year because they have it alternate years previously.

There was one year my colleagues and I were invited to a buka puasa buffet at The Marriot Kuala Lumpur. We sat around the table waiting for Azan Maghrib. And when the beduk started, I watched my Muslim friends say their prayer and sipped the sirap water - their first drop of liquid after an entire day of fasting.

After we have tucked into the spread, one of them commented, "What is beautiful about this experience is that all of you non-Muslims waited for Azan Maghrib like the rest of us instead of starting to eat first. And I am touched by it." That was my favourite Ramadan memory.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Chiling Falls - Crossing Rivers

Angie and I were supposed to go to Tioman during the long Merdeka weekend but all bus tickets to Mersing were sold out. This is what happens when you plan long weekends trips at the last minute.

So instead we went for a hike to Chiling Falls with another friend, Sharon. Chiling Falls is located in Kuala Kubu Bahru, a small town in the north of Selangor.

The hike to Chiling Falls is an easy 3 km journey - that is when hiking on terra firma. The difficult part is the 6 rivers we had to cross to get to the falls.

Here is a recap on what we experienced and learned, and hopefully these tips will be useful to hikers who are planning to go to Chiling Falls.

Finding the Trail

Chiling Falls suffers the lack of proper signboards. We lost our way twice because there were no signboards at confusing bends, junctions and forks in the trail. Luckily Angie bumped into one of her friends who was returning from the hike and he gave us directions.

After crossing the first bridge (which is a suspension bridge at the rangers office), you'll reach a clearing in the forest. Immediatly turn left and follow the trail there. Do not go straight, or you'll end up at the suspension bridge again, or worst, end up somewhere else.

When you reach a small river that looks like the picture on the right,
immediatly cross it. Don't let the appearance of a no-trail deceive you. The trail is there, you'll just have to look hard enough.

Hiking Gear

1) You'll DEFINITELY get wet (ahem) while hiking. So remember to bring along extra clothing.

2) Use durable sandals instead of sneakers or trainers. Since you'll be immersed in water most of the time, sandals are the best. I used sneakers which filled with sand and soaked water easily, making it heavy and difficult to move in.

3) Bring a waterproof knapsack or wrap your valuables in waterproof materials. Best is to leave your electronic gadgets - cellphone, camera, non water proof watch, etc in the car.

Crossing Rivers

Don't let the rivers scare you. It is actually quite simple to cross if you have the necessary experience and knowledge. Initially we wanted to turn back cause we have never crossed rivers with such strong currents before. Moreover certain parts were waist deep; and if you're not careful, chest deep! But we braced ourselves and made it in the end. The return journey was easier since we were not 'virgin river crossers' anymore.

1) The best way to cross is to swim cum wade. But we could not do that since we had our cumbersome knapsacks which we had to hold above our heads to keep dry. Next time I'll bring only a bottle of water.

2) Look for the best possible path to cross instead of jumping straight in. The best is to look for areas where the current doesn't look strong and where you can see the rocks under the water. This means the water is not so deep.

3) Keep your footwear on when crossing the rivers. It would help protect your feet from the rocks and sharp stones on the riverbed. Oh yeah, when you step on sand when crossing the river, you might sink a bit cause the sand is very soft. Make sure your footing is firm before you take the next step.

At Chiling Falls

When we reached the falls we noticed a very clean area compared to other falls and nature reserve parks in Selangor like Sungai Kanching, Templer’s Park and Sungai Gabai, which looks like a rubbish dump.

There was also a considerable lack of hikers leaving us lots of room to swim and laze around. Maybe because it was the long Merdeka weekend and most folks had gone outstation.

After a brief swim, we gobbled down nasi lemak, tuna & egg sandwiches and Cheezels (what an unhealthy snack for hiking!).

Being the photoholic that she is, Angie than started fiddling with her camera. Here are some fun shots to end the hike:

Note: Credit to Angie for taking all the photos in this entry, except the first photo.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

My Merdeka Wishlist

Malaysia is 51-years-old today. Most people at 51 years of age would have made significant progress in their life - nurtured a family, have a stable job, bought a house and car, matured in thinking and behaviour, etc. However, being imperfect human beings, there will always be areas of improvement no matter how perfect life is.

In the same way, Malaysia has grown from a small agriculture based country to what it is today. Yet, despite all it's success, there'll always be areas for improvement.

As we celebrate Malaysia's 51st Independence Day today, let me share with you some items in my wishlist for a better Malaysia.

1) That all Malaysians will learn the food and culture of other races in Malaysia. Thosai, vadai, ketupat and lemang are common Malaysian food, and not something that can only be found in 5-star hotels. Learn about the food and culture of other races and don't be a katak bawa tempurung.

2) For more courtesy on the road. There's no need to get angry, step on the accelerator or show the finger when someone wants to overtake you. The person could be in an emergency.

3) For more consideration on the trains and buses. There's no harm in moving futher into the train or bus so that your fellow Malaysians can enter too. We all want to reach our destination on time. Oh yeah, pushing and shoving into the train before passengers can get off will only make matters worse.

4) For a more efficient transportation system. Delayed trains and unpunctual buses are something Malaysians have to tolerate everyday and it has gotten on our nerves.

5) That all eligible Malaysians register as voters. No point condemning the Government when you don't even bother to make a difference by exercising your rights as a citizen of the country.

6) That politics in Malaysia will not be based on race or religion, but based on building a nation of justice and peace.

7) That ALL Malaysians will be given equal opportunities.

Happy Independence Day, Malaysia!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Times Warehouse Books Clearance

I went to the Times Warehouse Books Clearance Sale last Saturday at the Hartamas Shopping Centre. I'm a Times Bookstore member and will make an effort to go for all its warehouse clearance sale because books are cheaper there compared to buying at the outlets.

Times used to have their warehouse clearance sale in Wisma Hamodal in Section 14, Petaling Jaya but I guess they must be relocating due to various reasons.

Like all Times warehouse sale, there was a wide variety of books, including bestsellers that were going at 30% off. I had a field day browsing and choosing the books in my wishlist.

Despite shortlisting my wishlist, I didn't realise I had spent RM330! This is what I got for that kind of money:

  • The Alchemist - By Paulo Coelho
  • Awaken the Giant Within - By Anthony Robbins
  • The Free Mind: A Lateral Thinking Approach - By Edward de Bono
  • French Verbs for Dummies - By Zoe Erotopoulos, PhD
  • Almost French: A New Life in Paris - By Sarah Turnbull
  • Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French - By Stephen Clarke
  • The Marine Corps Way: Using Maneuver Warfare to Lead a Winning Organisation - By Jason A. Santamaria, et al
  • Sex Signals - By Judi James
  • Australia - Lonely Planet
  • The Goodbye Summer - By Patricia Gaffney
Shoppers who spend minimum RM300 will receive a free gift of either a RM5 voucher or a Times notebook. I chose the notebook because the voucher only had a life span of 1 week and I didn't want to spend more money on books after blowing RM330.

So, mission accomplished - I've fulfilled my RM1,000 quota of books for income tax purposes. No more spending on books till next year. And I've added some superb books to my collection.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Beijing 2008 Olympics - My Favourite Memories

As the cauldron of the 2008 Beijing Olympics grew dimmer and dimmer yesterday, the sporting world will remember Beijing for not only staging the most expensive Olympics ever, but also for the many athletes that make sports such an interesting event to watch.

For me, I will remember the 2008 Beijing Olympics for these personalities and moments (in no particular order):

A Husband's Undying Love
Matthias Steiner of Germany who won gold in the men's weightlifting +105 kg Group A, dedicated his gold to his late wife Susann who died in a car crash in 2007. Matthias had promised her the gold medal as she lay dying in the hospital.

This is my favourite report of Matthias on the medal podium that appeared in Xinhua: "On the medal podium, Matthias clutched a snapshot of Susann as he choked, "She's always with me, in the hours before the competition. She's there..." On the picture, Susann beamed, while on the audience stands, many wept."

Triumph in the Face of Adversity

These two athletes are my favourites in how they overcame odds to emerge champions in their own right.

Natalie Du Toit of South Africa lost her left leg in a motorcycle accident in 2001. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics she competed with able-bodied athletes in the 10km women's swimming marathon and ranked 16th. Natalie also competed in the Paralympics.

Maarten van der Weljden of the Netherlands was diagnosed with leukemia seven years ago. He overcame the disease and won the men's 10km swimming marathon.

Van der Meijden said that his past disease has taught him well in swimming, "It taught me to think step by step and to be patient. When you are in so much pain and lying in a hospital bed, you aren't thinking about the next month, but the next hour. This is the same strategy I used here -- staying in the pack and waiting for my chance." - Source Xinhua

What an inspiring story of the triumph of the human spirit.

End of the Innocence

Yang Peiyi (left) has the voice of an angel but was deemed not pretty enough to appear in the opening ceremony. Instead she was replaced by the prettier Lin Miaoke (right) who mimed Peiyi's melodious voice.

When Peiyi grows up, she will realise that this is a world where the beautiful are treated like gods while the not so beautiful are forgotten and disregarded. Thank you to those responsible for damaging the self esteem of an innocent child.

Utter Stupidity
Angel Valodia Matos from Cuba kicked referee Chakir Chelbat from Sweden in the head for declaring him a loser in a bronze medal match in the men's taekwondo +80kg class. As a result, Angel and his coach were banned for life by the World Taekwondo Federation.

I remember my taekwondo teacher telling us that we should never use our martial arts skills for bad things, and this joker Angel is showing the world exactly the opposite of how a martial arts exponent should behave. How stupid can one get!

Age is Just a Number
Dara Torres, at the age of 41, kicked arse in the pool, beating swimmers almost half her age. Although she did not win any gold, her silver medal in the women's 50m free style is proof that age is just a number.

Usain Bolt's Winning Antics
Some people might say that Usain Bolt of Jamaica is arrogant for his winning antics and gestures before reaching the finishing line.

IOC President, Jacques Rogge critised Bolt for not showing respect for his fellow contestants, but was critised in return by many for doing so. Who's to tell Bolt, who created history by breaking records in the men's 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay what to do.

By the way, Bolt is also a sprinter with a generous heart - he made a personal donation of US50,000 to the children affected by the Sichuan earthquake.

Most Memorable Picture
This is my favourite picture of Michael Phelps looking up at his mother Debbie after receiving his medal. That is the look of love a mother has for her son, the greatest Olympian ever.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Urinate or Defecate?

I saw this signboard outside a restroom in Tanah Lot, Bali in November last year. For the benefit of those who cannot read Bahasa Indonesia, the translation is:

Urinate: Rp 1,000
Defecate: Rp 1,000
Bathe: Rp2,000

The first question that came to mind was ... why did they bother to segregate the fee for defecating and urinating when it's the same price?

I can imagine the person collecting the money asking: "You mau buang air besar atau mau kencing? Harga tetap sama - Rp1,000."
Translation: "Do you want to defecate or urinate? The fee is the same - Rp 1,000."

So there you go ...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Something Sounded in the Night

This is the guesthouse I stayed in Chiang Mai when I backpacked there in November last year. I won't reveal it's name because of the story I am about to tell you.

I stumbled upon this guesthouse while looking for a cheaper and more strategically located alternative after putting up my first night in Chiang Mai in another guesthouse.

Anyway, this guesthouse is strategically located within walking distance to many places of interest in Chiang Mai. With rates at only THB200 per night for a queen sized bed with attached bathroom and hot water, what more could I ask for.

After transfering my stuff to this new place, I happily checked-in without a faintest idea what awaited me during the next 3 nights.

I hit the sack early that night after an exhausting day exploring Chiang Mai.

Between 3.00am and 4.00am, what sounded like the tinkering of a bell started to break the silence of the night. The noise grew louder and louder and then it began ... the most bloodcurling, spine chilling dog howl I've ever heard began resonating in the night.

What made the insident scarier was the sounds felt like they were just outside my window. I was petrified out of my wits and was tempted to look out of the window but didn't for fear of what I might see. So I pulled the blanket tighter and closed my ears with pillows to block out the noise.

The sounds would last for about 5 minutes. You might think that 5 minutes is not long. But when it's 5 minutes of sheer horror, it feels like an unending nightmare. Theory of relativity at work here ...

Every night when the bell starts tinkering and the dogs start howling, I reminded myself to ask the owner of the guesthouse the next day. Or to look if there's a temple beside the guesthouse. But somehow I always forget because of the various activities that kept me occupied.

The next time I visit Chiang Mai, I'll return to the guesthouse and ask the owner. Till then, the sounds of the tinkering bell and bloodcurling howl will remain a mystery amongst my travel adventures.

"It came with the wind through the silence of the night, a long, deep mutter, then a rising howl, and then the sad moan in which it died away. Again and again it sounded, the whole air throbbing with it, strident, wild, menacing." - The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle

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