Thursday, 31 December 2009

4 Items You Must Have in a Hostel

I cannot emphasise enough on the importance of having these 4 items when staying in a backpackers hostel.

Item 1: Slippers or Flip-Flops
Always use a pair of slippers whenever you bathe in the common shower or when going to the loo. In these places which are used by every Tom, Dick and Harry staying in the hostel, you'll never know what's on the floor. So a pair of slippers would provide adequate protection for your feet.

If you've invested in a pair of good quality slippers, you could also wear them while gallivanting about.

Item 2: Plastic bags
Eventhough we're encouraged to reduce the use of plastic for the sake of the environment, I carry plastic bags of various sizes whenever I travel. I use these bags to keep my things dry whenever it rains, for storing dirty clothes, for sending clothes to the laundry and even to wrap my shower gel and shampoo in case of spillage.

But the most important use of a plastic bag is in the shower. Most common showers in hostels do not have hooks to hang clothes and toiletries. Even if they have hooks, it may not be enough.

With a plastic bag, I just dump in my towel, new change of clothes, toiletries, etc. and hang the bag on whichever hook, shower handle, door knob, etc. that I can find. Easy isn't it?

Item 3: Ear plugs
When you sleep in a dorm with one hundred and one other fellas who fart, snore and creak the bed whenever they turn or whenever they get up to go to the loo, ear plugs would come in handy.

Some inconsiderate dorm mates may even speak at the top of their voices and ear plugs are a good way to shut these fellas out from your head.

Item 4: Eye pads
When some insensitive idiot comes back in the middle of the night and switches on the dorm light because he can't find his way to the bed, you'll be glad you have your sleeping eye mask on.

To save money, you can get sleeping eye masks free of charge on your flight. But don't expect it on budget airlines.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

This is How You Open a Bvlgari Perfume Bottle

Last month I asked readers how to open a Bvlgari perfume bottle, but nobody gave me an answer. In fact, I received many hits looking for an answer to the question.

So here's the answer in 2 simple steps:

Step 1:  Because the bottle looks the same from all angle, you must first differentiate the top from the bottom. The bottom of the bottle is indicated by a small flat surface like this:

Step 2: Hold the bottom firmly and remove the top part carefully. It's quite tight, so make sure you have a good grip on both the top and bottom part; you don't want the perfume to spill everywhere.

The opened Bvlgari perfume bottle should look like this:

Take note that this only applies to the 5ml bottle.

The bigger bottle (can't remember how many ml) is much easier to use. Just press the top part downwards like an aerosol can and the perfume will squirt out.

Hope that helps!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Gastronomic Adventure in Malacca ... And Other Things ... (Part 2)

(Click here for Part 1)

We woke up late on Day 2 and decided to have chicken rice ball for brunch.

By making a headstart at 11.00am, we thought we could beat the crowd and secure a table.

But to our amazement, there was already a queue in the first kopitiam we went to. Come on people ... I'm sure there's more to life than queing up for balls at 11.00am.

So we moved on to the next kopitiam and thankfully it was not crowded yet.

Chicken Rice Ball

Malacca is the birthplace of the chicken rice ball. But I'm not sure if it has expanded to other states. What makes it different from the usual chicken rice you get elsewhere, is that the rice comes in a ball shape. That's all.

Service was fast but the meal was average. The steamed chicken contained layers of fat which I had to painstakingly remove, and the rice was not fresh. I think the Ipoh Chicken Rice on Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya is so much tastier.

No wonder the queue was at the other kopitiam and not here.

Next, we crossed the street to have Nyonya Cendol.

Nyonya Cendol

Look how different the consistency is compared to the Cendol Jam Besar we had the day before. But price also different lah. It costs RM2.00 for a bowl of Nyonya Cendol compared to RM1.50 for a bowl of Cendol Jam Besar.

While enjoying the cendol, it rained cats and dogs that we had to wait till the rain subsided.

Rain, rain go away ...

When the downpour turned into a drizzle, we continued walking and came to Hotel Puri.

The building used to be the home of philantropist and rubber plantation owner, Tan Kim Seng. He was a third generation Straits Chinese born in Malacca in the 1800s.

After undergoing extensive renovation, the place was reopened in the late 90s as Hotel Puri.

If you go to Malacca, don't forget to visit the hotel, even if you're not a paying guest.

Hotel Puri is a museum on it's own with its traditional interiors and deco. Makes me feel like I'm back in Malacca in the 1800s.

An open airwell is a common feature in most traditional Malaccan houses, just like this airwell in Hotel Puri.

A few doors away from Hotel Puri is Jehan Chan Art Gallery.

We spoke to Jehan's friendly daughter who takes care of the gallery. She told us that the length of some of the houses on Heeran Street could reach 220 ft!

That explains why Hotel Puri looks small from the outside, but it's super long on the inside.

Because the length of Jehan Art Gallery is so long, it would take Jehan's daughter (didn't get her name) a few minutes to put down whatever she's doing and walk to the front to open the door whenever there are visitors. By that time, most visitors would think there's no one home and they would leave.

After that informative conversation, we walked to the back of the houses to see the length from outside. Trust me, the houses are long indeed.

While walking, it started raining cats and dogs again. We ran into Geographer Cafe to chill while waiting for the rain to stop.

The cafe was the location of a few scenes from the movie Summer Holiday which starred Sammi Cheng and Ritchie Ren. As such, the movie was playing on the LCD screens in a loop, like some sort of promotion lah.

So we sat down, ordered drinks and watched the movie.

The rain didn't stop. It drizzled and then it poured. Over and over it was like that.

Since we were stuck there, we ordered sandwiches, fries and more drinks, and watched the movie again and again.

Before the start of the 4th round of Summer Holiday (yes, the rain lasted that long), thankfully the rain became a drizzle.

So we ran in the rain to Dahtaran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall so that we would be in a sheltered place from the irritating rain that never ends.

To kill time, I suggested we watch Avatar at GSC but the timing was not right. So we watched Bodyguards & Assassins - my first ever Chinese movie in the cinema.

Go watch it. It's good except for the part when Donnie Yuen's character stands in the way of a charging horse to prevent the bad fella from pursuing Dr Sun Yat Sen. It was a total illogical, bullshit scene.

After the movie we walked back to Jonker Walk for the nightmarket.

First thing we did was whack dinner.

I had decided earlier I want to eat radish cake, and thankfully the hawker was selling that day.

Dishing out radish cake

Radish cake = Delicious!

For dessert, Angie and I shared a serving of muah chi.

Muah chi. Don't know what's the English name. Some things in life you just can't explain in English.

Then we did a bit of shopping and I bought these:

Earring stand for RM30.00. Bloody cheap, but must bargain.

RM5.00 for 3 pairs of earring. Cheapest I've seen in Malaysia!

I must have pineapple tarts and teh-teh sar whenever I visit Malacca.

If not for the rain, my gastronomic adventure in Malacca would have been perfect; because when it comes to travel, hot and sunny is anytime better than raining cats and dogs.

Greener Pastures

I submitted my resignation letter today, or rather yesterday since it's already way past midnight now.

When I joined this company in March 2008, I thought I would stay for at least 3 years after changing jobs a couple of times before. But as fate has it, my new job came looking for me instead of the other way round.

A headhunter came knocking at my door at the end of October. When he explained to me the package which is better than what I'm getting, I became interested in "exploring opportunities", as what headhunters would say.

By mid November I found myself in the interview room doing a few written tests and undergoing an interview. In less than 2 weeks after that, I was called for a second interview and my fate was sealed. Things were moving in such a short time I can't believe it's happening!

I will definitely miss my current colleagues, some of whom I've built good relations with rather than a hi-bye kind of thing. The close proximity of my current office to the Monorail station made it easy to get to work, and I'll miss that too.

I'll be joining the new company on 1 March 2010. Hopefully it would be a good start to the New Year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Gastronomic Adventure in Malacca ... And Other Things ... (Part 1)

I was in Malacca for a gastronomic adventure recently.

When Angie and I reached Malacca, we decided to have chicken rice ball for lunch in the Jonker Walk area.

To our dismay, all 3 kopitiams we went to were crowded till the queue was overflowing onto the road. Look at the pics and you'll know what I mean.

Kopitiam 1: Queuing like nobody's business

Kopitiam 2: Not again!

Kopitiam 3: We give up lah!

In the end we had nyonya laksa at one of the other kopitiams. Couldn't tahan hunger anymore, so anything also makan lah.

Nyonya Laksa

After lunch, we walked along the small roads that the Jonker Walk area is famous for.

 Quaint and nice, reminds me of Luang Prabang

And we stumbled upon the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia, the Cheng Hoon Teng temple.

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

Despite coming to Malacca many, many times since I was a kid, I've yet to visit this temple. So we entered the temple and looked around. It was nothing to shout about.

After visiting the temple, we moved on and saw some pretty buildings like these:

I also stumbled upon the Koong On Loong Goldsmith where my late dad always goes to whenever he wants to buy gold for my mum. Heck, I even got my ears pierced here when I was 13-years-old!

I got my ears pierced here when I was 13-years-old.

By that time we were already thirsty with all the walking. So we headed to the Cendol Jam Besar beside the Stadthuys for a dose of one of my favourite Malaysian desserts.

Look how watery the cendol was

Unfortunately the cendol sucked big time. There were hardly any ingredients in the cendol. It was only shaved ice, green cendol, coconut milk, gula Melaka and some miserable corn. Where are the other ingredients like red beans and cincau? Luckily it costs only RM1.50 per bowl.

After that lousy cendol, we headed back to the hostel on Lorong Bukit Cina to snooze for a while before continuing our gastronomic journey in the evening.

It was raining when we woke up. So we waited for the rain to subside and walked our way to Jalan Bunga Raya for some tasty fried oysters.

The famous fried oysters on Jalan Bunga Raya is only available in the evenings.

Each batch the uncle fries is enough for 6 packets worth RM6.00 each. And if he dishes out an average of 30 batches a night, he would be earning a monthly gross salary equivalent to the salary of a Senior Vice President in a multinational. I wanna become a hawker too!

 Parsley completes the yummi-ness of the fried oyster

After that satisfying meal, we walked back to the car and drove to the Portuguese Settlement to see the houses there decked in colourful Christmas lights and deco.

The Portuguese Settlement organises a competition annually to see who has the best decorated house. This year not many houses took part and many houses didn't have their lights on. It was a totally different experience compared to a couple of years back when the entire place was decorated to the max and I was mesmerised with all the lights.

After Portuguese Settlement, we drove back to our hostel which was near the famous Capitol Satay Celup. The queue was like a bitch when we passed the place earlier.

Now that it was close to 12.00 midnight, the crowd had lessen. So we got into queue and after about 30 minutes we got a table.

Satay celup

Malacca is the birthplace of satay celup. What makes it great is the special peanut sauce to boil your skewers of food in. If not for the sauce, satay celup would only be as menial as the lok-lok in KL which uses water.

I whacked at least 10 sticks of various items. But I was happiest to chom down 2 whole Century eggs with ginger, quill eggs, sausages with cheese in the middle and fishballs. Cholesterol, cholesterol, cholesterol ... But it was hard to resist.

Stay tuned for Day 2 of my gastronomic adventure in Malacca ...

Monday, 21 December 2009

My Favourite Marriage Proposal Line

I'm sure you've heard and read about how some guys proposed to their girlfriends.

The unimaginative ones do it the old fashion way by getting down on one knee with ring in hand before popping the question. The creative ones think of ways to make the event a memorable one.

My god daughter's husband proposed to her whilst playing Hangman. While into the game, one of the sentences he asked her to guess was, "Will You Marry Me?"

When she realised that the sentence was a marriage proposal, my god daughter burst out crying. It was super romantic and ingenious!

Ok so the guy can think of creative ways to pop the question. But I think what he says to the girl to ask her for her hand in marriage is also important. So what is your favourite marriage proposal line?

Mine is:

"(Girl's full name), for all that you are, and for all that you are not, would you be my wife?"

I love this proposal line because it shows that the guy acknowledges and accepts everything about the girl - her strengths and her weaknesses, her beauty and her ugliness. And despite all her imperfections, he still wants to marry her.

Isn't that something so beautiful in a relationship?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Thumbs-Up & Masculine Virility

Phallus worship? Phalluses in a temple in Krabi, Thailand.

I was reading Angels & Demons by Dan Brown and came across this paragraph:

"One of the free fallers, an obese woman, maneuvered toward the window. She was being buffeted by the air currents but grinned and flashed Langdon the thumbs-up sign. Langdon smiled weakly and returned the gesture, wondering if she knew it was the ancient phallic symbol for masculine virility."

I was wondering whether Brown made up that piece of information, or did he write it based on solid facts.

So I did a random search and according to WikiAnswers:

"The thumbs-up is the original sign for masculine virility. Virility, coming from the work virile means to be masculine and show signs of a grown man. In past centuries people have used the thumbs up as a sign of an ideal male specimen."

Who would know that a common finger gesture like the thumbs-up sign holds a completely different meaning altogether.

And I think the founder of Kacang Ngan Yin didn't know the original meaning of the thumbs-up sign either.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Bathing in Bath

As I told you previously, I stayed at the Bath Backpackers Hostel during my stay in the beautiful city of Bath.

On my first day in Bath, after a long day of walking and exploring, I decided to take a shower to clean the grime and dust before hitting the sack. So I gathered my toiletries, pyjamas and towel, and headed to the common female bathroom downstairs.

No one was there and I was happy as I've got the whole place to myself!

The bathroom was not big - only 3 shower cubicles. There was a stool and I used it to place my towel and clothes. I hung my toiletries on the hooks inside the shower cubicle.

The water pressure was good and the temperature was just right since the weather was quite cold in the evening.

As I was scrubbing myself, suddenly the lights went out!

I was horrified! What the fark happened???!!!

And then I remembered that the lights operated by movement. That means it will switch on automatically the moment someone steps into the entrance of the common bathroom. And after a period of time when there's no movement, the lights would switch off automatically. The lights only detected movement in the common area and not in the shower cubicles.

Since I was bathing for quite some time, and being the only one there, obviously the lights switched off because there was no movement. I think this must be the Bath Backpacker's sadistic way of deterring people from taking long showers.

I had to do something to get the lights back on.

While groping in the dark, I turned off the shower and opened the cubicle door. And while making sure I didn't trip over the stool and knock my clothes onto the wet floor (eeeyaaaa ...), I walked out naked into the common area, just to create some movement lah.

I was praying no one would walk in at that moment. Otherwise they would have gotten a fright seeing a naked Asian gal walking in the dark!

Thank goodness the lights came back on.

I quickly finished my shower, got dressed and got out of there.

Automatic lights are good for the environment because electricity is conserved. And you know how some people can be careless about leaving the lights on after they use the bathroom. But sometimes automatic lights can be troublesome, especially when I have to walk naked in the dark to switch them on again.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Refinancing My Home Loan

After 5 years of being a loyal paymaster to an international bank, I finally decided to refinance my home loan.

This time I'm choosing a local bank simply because they have offered me a fantastic interest rate. So far their service has been nothing but fast and efficient. So I've got no complains.

And from a 30-year loan with the international bank, I'm reducing it to 6 years with the local bank. I'm extremely motivated to do so after calculating the total amount of interest I would have to pay if I had chosen the 30-year loan. I could buy another property with that kind of money. So I'm not gonna let the bank earn a single cent more from me !

I might have to make some sacrifices for the next 6 years because when I reduce the loan tenure, the monthly payments increases. But I think it's an effort that's well worth it. I can already imagine the feeling of having a fully-paid-up property in my name in 6 years time !
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