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Thursday, May 14, 2009

I tried to sing in Singapore for the first time but Malaysia took my heart

I'm back from a four day tour of Singapore (if that can be called one) and Malaysia. I was with my sister-in-law, her husband and the husband's sister who just flew in from Saipan for a visit. Planning was done as early as last month, looking for hotels, bus terminals and all those things. Guess what, we missed our bus going to Clark. We even saw it leave Megamall around 2:15 am. The lady I made reservations with made sure it was leaving the place at 2:39. We tried to catch it but to no avail. We landed up in another bus station going to Alaminos. We had to disembark at Dau and take a van going to Clark.

The view from our hotel window

Taken while taking a rest inside our hotel room

I can hardly say I've toured Singapore. We arrived there around 1:30 and got out of the airport maybe 30 mins. after. We went directly to Furama hotel where we were booked, went out for lunch in a mall, buy some goodies and before we knew it, it was already way past six. We went back to the hotel to take a rest. We said we only needed 5 minutes of nap time but since we hardly slept the night before, we woke at 10. We've been told that the stores by Orchard Road would have been closed and asked where we could go to shop. We ended up in what is known as Little India called Mohamed Mustafa, a retail giant in the country.

There, anything and everything that can be sold is being sold. The place is replete with stalls you can barely walk and is teeming with people at anytime. We ended up in the wee hours of the morning and yet the place was still jam packed. The following day, we woke up late and headed for the airport. The taxi driver was a jolly fellow who had a lot of entertaining stories about his country. He said that Singapore is a fine city, meaning everything you do is being fined. He had his own versions of the acronyms. Too bad, I did not write them down. Anyway, the cab drivers there speak english and are very honest. When I asked the driver if it was safe to go anywhere, he said, "Let's put it this way. Low crime does not mean no crime."

Anyway, my best impression of the country is that it is so clean and their system is very efficient. Nevertheless, there was a little snag at the airport. When I put my bag into the x-ray, the men stationed there asked me to open it. This was a surprise because I never expected that they would do that. The man by the x-ray machine told the other guy that there's another small bag which he then took out. Lo and behold, it contained a cutter. I have forgotten all about it. They confiscated it, borrowed my passport and copied the number. Hmmm, does this mean I can no longer visit Singapore?

Malaysia is 45 minutes away by plane. I have been there before and am a little familiar with the place as I and my wife had been competently and generously toured by my friend, Bayi. Arriving at the airport, we took lunch and hailed a bus for KL Sentral.

They don't look strange, do they?

My first taste of tobacco after Singapore and it tasted heavenly!

Bus ride from LCCT to KL Sentral

At KL Sentral, we took Bayi's advice to go to the taxi station where we are given a cab for Genting Highlands. It costs RM 80 to get there. Funny but our cab driver looked like Telly Savalas of the Kojak fame. Anyway, Genting Highlands is an entertainmen cum theme park/casino and a nice get away from the hustles and bustles of the city. We checked in, after several hours of queueing, at the First World Hotel, that boasts to have the most number of rooms in the world. If that doesn't impress you yet, here are some facts. We arrived there, got a number before we can even check in.

We were #1446

346 to go!

Suffice it to say that we were all ready for dinner when we got to our room. The outdoor activity area was already closed leaving us to the indoor activity to venture. We watched a show named DREAMZ, a song and dance acrobat and magic show featuring both Asians and mostly European artists. They had white lions and tigers in the show and it was indeed entertaining.

After the show, what else was there to do but shop and yes, try our chances at the casino. As to be expected, I lost about RM150. That would be about Php 2000. Not bad considering I stopped at around 3 am. I should have stopped while I was ahead!

That morning, at breakfast, I took revenge and ate to my heart's content at the buffet breakfast included in our package. I ate like there was no tomorrow! AFter that, we toured the place, took the train that goes around the place and checked out. ON our way back to KL, we opted to ride the cable car. The cable car is a 15 minute ride of about 3.4 kilometers above the canopy of Malaysian rainforest. The first salvo of the trip is a whopping hundreds of feet drop that goes all the way to about a mile. It was a harrowing experience for me considering that I have fear of heights and I was in front seat.

When we got to KL, we stayed at the Grand Season Hotel and from there was picked up by Bayi and his wife, who graciously treated us to a sumptuous dinner that is really a gastronomic's delight. He offered us a bevy of vegetables, seafood and a local crispy pata with a new twist. Instead of serving it plain and dipped with a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and garlic, it was bathed in a sort of satay sauce. Bayi always the good entertainer, has done it again. I was so sated I can hardly breathe.

The following day, we headed for the Petronas Tower. We got tickets and as the tickets we got were for the 5:30pm viewing, we decided to take a train and head for the market in Penang Sari.

Underground bus station at KLCC

The bus station at KLCC is underground, probably so as not to ruin the view of the Petronas Tower but it goes above ground just as our LRT thereafter. The ride costs RM1. Which we think is very cheap.

This is where we got off

Again, my companions went on a shopping spree while I just window shopped, watched the artists work at the far end just like what Ermita was during the early 70's and managed to buy bracelets for my wife and kids and a set of soft charcoal pencils
for myself. What can I do, I barely carry money and having lost at the casino, I only have some left for food hahaha.

Thereafter, we took the train again and headed for the Petronas. While waiting for our scheduled tour, I happen to chance upon a gallery showcasing one of the local artists on exhibit while my companions shopped till they dropped. Too bad, I couldn't take pictures but the show was a good one.

Anyway, Malaysia is not a very different place for a Filipino. While their food
has a distinct taste, the people are just like us. What is amazing is how they managed to live together, in spite of their different religious, ethnic and cultural traditions. I have often wondered why there were too many words that sound familiar like lelaki for males, masuk for entry and this:

I'm sure the list can go on and on and then it dawned on me. We share the same heritage knowing that our ancestors are Malays coming here using boats called balangays. That is if Otley Beyer is correct.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

It's not that grand but it's ours!

We've moved back to the house although there are still things to be completed like interior doors, painting jobs, etc, etc. What's more depressing are the boxes that are still cluttered in our living room. Nevermind what's stored inside the children's rooms. As it is, they cannot occupy these yet and have to sleep in the family room where the tv and this computer is. It looks like it would take another three months before everything's finally settled. Just the same, we are all glad we're back!

Unfortunately, my 85 year-old mother-in-law takes a long time to get re-acquainted with the house. She seems to be disoriented. What happened was we asked my wife's brother to take her to his house and stay there for a while as the house we were renting was too hot and very uncomfortable. The problem was she wasn't there when we moved back. Now, she keeps on saying she wants to go back home. We can't find the right words to tell her that this is the same house, only renovated. Oh well, I guess confusion is almost synonymous to old age.

Nevertheless, in a few hours from now, I shall be on my way to Clark where a plane shall take me and my in-laws to Singapore for an overnight stay. From there, we head to Genting, Malaysia for another overnight stay and travel back to Kuala Lumpur where hopefully, I get to meet an old friend of mine, Bayi, who used to go visiting Filipino blogs before making his name a familiar one in Philippine blogosphere.

Tata for now!


Twenty years of teaching must sure amount to something. A new friend in cyberspace suggested I ought to have a journal by now. I agree.

Taken by my friend Arlene Lawson in her room at Century Park Sheraton in May, 2000.
Posted by Hello
Location: Bambang, Pasig City, Philippines

Jack of all trade, master of none. First a disclaimer. My students have discovered this blog and they might think that what I write is gospel truth. Worse is they might find an argument that they think they can use, for some reason or another, against their teachers. So, to set the record straight, it is NOT. As a matter of fact, I write and open it to feedback to get another view in the hope that somebody would tell me if I am wrong and reenforce my thinking if it is right. Not that I will accept anything thrown my way, though. Just so I can think about it some more and decide whether my original stance is right or definitely off tangent. So there. I hope that clarifies everything. Now, on to blogging.

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