Day 365 : Sexpressionists

I almost didn’t recognise them with their clothes on. LOL. It was surreal to chance upon Alvin and Vivian in front of Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur. The infamous famous Malaysian couple was interviewing people on the street about sex for an upcoming documentary on Alvivi Youtube channel.

Having gone through the whole media frenzy about their now defunct sex blog, Sumptuous Erotica, it’s great to see that they treat the debacle and critics as water off a fduck’s bareback. Then again, if one dares to post personal nude photos, genitalia close-ups and love-making videos in a public blog for all to see, especially in this conservative part of the world, what else is there that one could not stand up to? This couple has balls!

Losing his prestigious ASEAN scholarship to read law at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Alvin and Vivian are now back in Kuala Lumpur and living together. They tried to pitch a reality show about sex in Asia but of course, no studios dared to take them on and wanted them to steer away from the whole sex thing if collaborations are to be considered. Kinda like telling McDonald’s to not sell hamburgers because they are not health food. But Alvivi decided not to receive media castration and armed with their own camera and tripod, set up an interview point at the busiest shopping district in Kuala Lumpur, and got people thinking about their views about sex.

They asked if I would like to be interviewed but I was in a hurry to collect my lugguage from the hotel before heading to the airport. Besides, I won’t have much to say about sex for I hardly have any! My cobwebs are legendary amongst friends.

In the States, Sex and the City is a huge hit, in Asia, it got the couple into big shit. Meeting them was a sexciting surprise as I felt like I know them already from their nude photos and headlining news stories. Alvivi came across as sincere and personable in our brief chat and I think their self-confidence and guts are uber sexy!

Whatever the future holds for Alvin and Vivian, I wish them well and may they have a rewarding life together. Lights, camera, mirror, shoot and shoot! 😉

Day 316 : Perdana Botanical Gardens

While I appreciate the vibrancy of every city I visit, I also like to sniff out scenic parks and gardens to give urbanity some rest. Close encounters with native flora and fauna really refreshes the spirit. I even enjoy that sweaty, sticky feeling after a satisfying hike that clears the mind and fills my camera’s memory card.

My hunt for nature in Kuala Lumpur brought me to Perdana Botanical Gardens today. Due to the consistent wet weather, I almost didn’t make it here during this trip if not for my very hospitable KL friend who made a stop en route to Publicka.

Previously known as Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens and renamed to Perdana Botanical Gardens in the middle of 2011, the sprawling naturescape is the city’s first ever large-scale park project. Due to its massive size, the garden has various entrances. Since my interest lies in catching sight of mousedeers, we took the entrance behind the Tun Abdual Razak Memorial which leads right to the deer enclosure.

The main building of the Tun Abdul Razak Memorial was under renovation so all I saw was rumble and debris.

Walking down a long flight of stairs behind the memorial’s main building leads to an enclosure that houses deers and mousedeers. I poked my Casio Exilim compact camera through the fence to snap their pics. I should’ve brought some treats along to get them to come to me.

Perdana Botanical Gardens seem in need of rejuvenation to relief it of neglected landscaping and get a spruce with more perennial flowering plants.

One of the few flowering shrubs I came across at the Tun Abdul Razak section of Perdana Botancial Gardens. Colourful blooms were lacking in the garden’s overbearing green.

Felt so wintry with the grey weather and this unpossessive tree. Unpossessive because it had no leaves.

The garden got it’s previous name due to this huge man-made lake within the park.

Light was very diffused with the coming rain so I decided to use the Sunset Mode on my Casio EX-ZR200 which applies a warm filter to the scenery to add some colour.

We didn’t spend a long time at Perdana Botanical Gardens although I would’ve loved to stay longer to check out the Orchid and Hibiscus Gardens as well. Within walking proximity to the city garden are the KL Bird Park and Butterfly Park as well as the Islam Art Museum and KL Planetarium that spots a mini Stonehenge replica. Will definintely come back again to check out these sights the next time I return to KL again.

Day 315 : That Changing Yellow Frame

The National Geographic store at Kuala Lumpur is my must visit place whenever I’m in the city. Really love checking out the latest prints within the yellow frames.

The collection this time revolved around water critters but most of the shots were blurred so I only have these 2 photos that are usable. Here are 2 other series of Nat Geo KL pics I took within this year too…

Day 035 : Frame Me (Feb 2012)

Day 099 : Chilling with Nat Geo (Apr 2012)

I crapped a prawn!

Day 314 : Off to Kuala Lumpur

After being robbed of my mobile phone in Kuala Lumpur in June this year, I was determined not to ever visit again but a friend needed help with marketing his newly established business venture there so I made a trip. With travel insurance bought this time.

Took the midnight Transtar coach (S$37.00) there and am pleasantly surprised by how ultra luxurious it was! The coach departed from Golden Mile Complex at 11:45pm and arrived at 4:00am in Kuala Lumpur.

It was an odd time to arrive at the Malaysian capital but the lower cost (the same coach would cost about double if travelling by slots other than midnight) and skipping traffic jams made up for the early arrival. May this trip be a safe one…

Day 154 : Robbed in Kuala Lumpur

Let my misadventure be a warning to you when visiting Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The city is infested with petty crimes and safety is an illusion. I’ve visited KL many times and it’s one of my favourite place for a short holiday but during this trip, I get the feeling that people are out to rob foreigners all the time.

Tourist attraction operators charge foreigners more while locals get preferential rates, cab drivers persistently defy the rule to charge cab fares according to the meter and ask for exorbitant amounts, and the streets are breeding with snatch thieves. It’s daylight robbery on every level.

I never imagined I would encounter something like this but I was robbed of my HTC One X handphone which I got just slightly over a month ago. Here’s what happened…

My travel buddy, Ian, and I had dinner at the Cheras district and was by the roadside waiting for a cab to go to our next destination. He held on to my phone to figure out the address while I was a few steps ahead looking out for empty taxis. Out of nowhere, a bike with a driver and a rider appeared and snatched my phone from Ian.

I didn’t see it happen as Ian was behind me. According to him, the pillon rider, a fat Malay man stretched out his hand grabbed Ian’s hand before yanking the phone from him. I am just thankful my friend wasn’t hurt. Imagine if the man held on to his hand and dragged him along the road.

It was a harrowing experience. I couldn’t believe my ears when Ian related the snatch theft process. It being a new phone and losing my contacts notwithstanding, my heart aches for all those photos I’ve yet to extract to my computer. I lost quite a lot of photos taken during this trip. Bastards!

Without much that we can do, we flagged down a cab, told the driver our pedicament and asked him to send us to the nearest police station to make a report. I’m not sure if the driver didn’t know there was a police station in Cheras or that he wanted to earn more fare as he brought us to a station in the city centre. The ride was about 15 minutes. While making the report, the policeman told us there’s actually a police station in Cheras and we should’ve made the report there because even though we made the report at his station, he would still pass the case to the Cheras station to act upon. He said that the driver was just out to make a buck from us despite our misfortune.

If that was true, all I can say is I hope he can sleep well at night.

So I related the snatch-robbery on Facebook and to KL friends and a torrent of grievances about such crimes poured forth. A friend got his laptop snatched, another got his car broken into four times, yet another had his DSLR pulled off his shoulder, but the worst was the story of a lady who resisted the robbers from taking her bag and got her fingers slashed. She lost two of her digits in that incident.

After being victimised, we became very wary and jittery when we walked the streets of KL the next day. With the prevalence of petty crimes, KL has completely lost its appeal to me. Things used to be very affordable in the city and was a draw for me but that’s no longer true. Food was also no big deal now that prices have gone up and partying in KL is like watching grass grow. Topped off with this ugly robbery, I don’t think I would want to ever go back again.

Related Post : Kuala Lumpur – Watch Your Wallet

Day 099 : Chilling with Nat Geo

The Nat Geo Kuala Lumpur store at Lot 10 is officially an attraction for me in the city! When I was here 2 months ago (Feb 2012), I was fascinated with the gorgeous photo spots created with mural prints and the iconic yellow window frame.

I thought the photos would remain the same then and now but this trip, they were different! Such a pleasant surprise… It’s camwhore paradise!

Uh-oh... who's the bear?

New fragrance launch... Gorillas in the Mist.

Monkey see, monkey do... wrongly.

Day 098 : Man Behaving Badly

Since we’ve got so much room to roam in the suite and kinda still in the mood to partay after leaving the club, I decided to convince my friend to do a photoshoot.

But not just any photoshoot. He had to use 2 bath towels to create 10 different ‘dresses’ and each change must not take more than 5 minutes.

The result was a series of shots that were sooooooooooooooo funny, it’s painful to see!! And the different looks that my friend created with just 2 towels were amazingly creative!

We christened this transvetite who cross-dresses with towels as Towel Tranny. I would put up more photos but I don’t want to be held responsible for causing death by laughter. I haven’t had such a good laugh in a long time! LOL.

Day 097 : Good Friday in Kuala Lumpur

It’s Good Friday because it’s a holiday! Not wanting to miss this long weekend, I took a trip to Kuala Lumpur with an ex-travel buddy and we checked into Royale Bintang Hotel. Lucky us got an upgrade to the Executive Suite on level 19. Sweet! 🙂

And the room had a pretty decent view looking out to Times Square. So why am I wearing shades at the blue hour indoors for a photo? To hide my panda eyes.

Day 036 : 孔雀开屏

Had wanted to visit the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park during previous trips but never got to realise it. Finally made a trip there this time round and I’m amazed by the abundance of free-ranging peacocks and peahens there.

For the first time, I saw a peacock open up its tail feathers upclose and personal. I was in awe of its beauty and being in the pressence of such a magnificent design of nature. I had an out-of-body experience just basking in its sapphire-emerald glory.

Day 035 : Frame Me

Was wandering Kuala Lumpur’s downtown shopping district when I came to Lot 10 and saw National Geographic billboards and escalator decals. I thought there was an exhibition or event going on. But it turned out to be promos for the Nat Geo store there.

I was excited for I’ve always been a fan of Nat Geo and the museum-cum-photo gallery concept of its store in Singapore’s VivoCity. Though I haven’t bought anything yet, I always enjoy browsing the shop. The KL store is much smaller but I still felt like an explorer looking at its decor and merchandise.

And I totally loved the shop promo installations using beautiful photos as backdrop framed by the iconic Nat Geo yellow window. What a great way for fans to create their very own Nat Geo moments!

Hanging on for an ass inspection by a camel!

Contemplating the future of our planet's survival. Hwah... cheem ah!

Johnnie Walker Black Circuit Lounge 2011

Now I know what it feels like to be Paris Hilton or any jet-setting celeb who parties out of a suitcase (minus the shenanigans). And the feeling’s simply terrific!

Imagine being flown to another city, lodged into a classy 5-star hotel, wined-and-dined at some of the most happening boutique restaurants, just to attend an exclusive V-VIP dance party… that’s like being handed the holy grail of the clubber’s bible!

For the socialites and crème de la crème of the entertainment circuit, this kind of treatment may be a drink of water but for a nobody like me, it’s something I’m still showering my karmic angels with kisses for. I am so very grateful. If I sound like I’m gushing here, please bear with me. This is the first time I’ve ever been invited on a party-and-blog stint overseas. Kuala Lumpur isn’t very far away, but to be inducted into the Johnnie Walker entourage is something to holler about because when the world’s number one Scotch whiskey brand says it’s a V-VIP experience, it REALLY is.

The bigshot feeling started at the airport where each of us was given a very nice party accessory that also acted as an entry ‘pass’ to the Black Circuit Lounge event (if you have no idea what this event is about, please visit my pre-trip entry here). The guys were given a stylish money-clip while the gals received an exquisite necklace with a pendant in the shape of Johnnie Walker’s trademark Striding Man. There’s a set of numbers behind each of these welcome gifts and were used to gain admittance at the venue. What a clever way to combine a party invite with a functional keepsake to remember the event by. So, was the event memorable?

Is a blue sky blue? A black swan black? Grass green? And I’m handsome? Haha… gotcha!

Matters of opinion are always subjective but I did find the party to be memorable. I’m not paying lip-service because I was well-hosted for the event; neither is my favourable impression a result of my propensity to dance even to your handphone’s ringtone if I have enough alcohol in me, but as a comparison to the big parties I’ve been to. The party was packed so I guess that speaks of its standards.

Anyway, here’re some photos and a video that illustrate my checkpoints of fun during Black Circuit Lounge 2011…

The venue was located within The MINES Resort City at Seri Kembangan, about 30 mins by car from KL city centre depending on traffic conditions. The out-of-city location added a shroud of mystery as to what the actual set-up looks like.

The party space was created with a huge tent erected on an empty plot near the Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel. The ultra posh hotel is a nominee at this year's World Luxury Hotel Awards. The whole look and feel of the Black Circuit Lounge was alright but I much preferred it to be non-smoking inside the tent.

Totally in love with the awesome lasers, lighting placement & chereography. As the venue was medium sized, the lights filled the whole space nicely without it being too blinding or having not enough length for the laser beams to really stretch.

Posing with the iconic Johnnie Walker Striding Man and the sizzling lady, Fadilah. And here's my version of the Twin Towers with the Black & Gold labels. The Black Label has a blend of about 40 whiskies aged at least 12 years old while the Gold Label is a blend of around 15 single malts bottled at 15 or 18 years. The Gold Label commands a prestige second only to the most expensive bottle in the Johnnie Walker collection... the Blue Label. Each bottle is individually serialised & sold in a silk-lined box. I shall go Blue to celebrate my 40th birthday!

About 1,400 V-VIP guests turned up for the party & there were iPad stations for us to post updates on Facebook. I felt that the guests at Black Circuit Lounge in Malaysia embraced spontaneity & bizarre antics better than those at the Jet Black Party in Singapore.

Good looking people with a wide body vocabulary of beautiful grooves were everywhere. It's like a model bomb exploded in there! I left the party with a crust of sugar on my pupils from all those eye candies. Even my companions for the trip were head-turners that will cause vision diabetes. Seek doctor's advice before seeing the next 2 pics. They may raise blood pressure & cause hyperventilation. Ha.

In the company of social influencers. (Left to right) Simran from online news portal asiaone.com. She handles the Plush section which according to her, requires her to party all the time & write about them. Sounds like the best job in the world! Next to her are singers Vanessa (formerly a DJ with 98.7FM under the moniker Ms Vandetta) & Alicia who's a health nut with an irrepressible energy. Then there's Fadilah who I owe my invite to; & Jak, Brand Manager for Johnnie Walker. These 2 are only in their 20s but they're really good at what they do... people with substance. At the back are Charlie & her husband who were my unit mates at the Ascott serviced apartments where we put up. Hope they weren't traumatised by having spent the night with me.

More of the who who's I went with. Top left : We are joined by Harry, who deejays for Power 98FM & a really funny guy! Top right : With the bubbly & effervescent Maggie Tan, a familiar face in the Singapore modelling arena, & Christopher Pua, Cleo Bachelor of the Year 2007. (Note to self : Never stand next to this guy when taking photos. He amplifies the Big Mac effect of my face.) Bottom left : Thumbs up for Eugene, our photographer for the night. Bottom right : With 2 of the 3 blogger dollies - Yee Kit & Jocelyn. Looking at them was like seeing Japanese anime characters come to life! Check out their blogs at kit-soloveyou.blogspot.com, jocelynkau.com, & myfatpocket.com/celestina-loves.

Never drink & drive. Johnnie Walker stands by this reminder very seriously. I posted a shoutout on my Facebook before the trip to jokingly say that since 'I don't drive, I'm gonna drink till I can't walk.' Very promptly, I received an email to remind me of Johnnie Walker's advocacy in responsible drinking. So, Keep Walking if you've been drinking! That's good advice from the car.

I was recovering from a bout of flu just before departing for the 3D2N trip so I was rather deanimated most of the time from meds to stop the sniffles. But the party managed to inject life into me despite my limbs feeling like they weighed a ton!

For giving me the premium experience of V-VIP partying, I would like to thank the good folks at Johnnie Walker who took very good care of us. To Simran and Fadilah, I am regretful about the puke facial I gave you gals, but I hope your complexions are glowing now. Muahahaha 😀

For super class partying, Step Inside the Circuit of Johnnie Walker’s premium Scotch whiskies…

For more photos of the event and this trip to KL with quick quips on places to eat, please click here. If you’d like to be informed of upcoming Johnnie Walker parties and get a chance to be invited to these fabulous events, click here to join the Johnnie Walker Singapore Facebook fanpage!

Jet Set Partying with Johnnie Walker

Hot on the heels, or should I say wheels, of Johnnie Walker’s exclusive Jet Black Party in Singapore to mark the 2011 Formula One season, I have the privilege to be invited to the next leg of its premium circuit event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!

Dubbed the Johnnie Walker Black Circuit Lounge, it is the official race party of the Malaysian Grand Prix and the world’s top-selling Scotch whiskey label will be pulling all stops to create an experience so luxurious, guests are promised V-VIP treatments and a taste of the high-flying lifestyle enjoyed by the likes of Lewis Hamilton (2008 Formula One World Champion) and Jenson Button (2009 World Drivers’ Champion). Now, this may sound like a pursuit of hedonism in excess, but really, the spirit of the Black parties is a celebration of the ability within each of us to make things better, to improve, to progress… as embodied in the successes of these 2 drivers of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team.

Now, there are good grounds for me to be excited about the Black Circuit Lounge party this Saturday, it being an airfare and accomodation sponsored trip notwithstanding. If the Singapore Jet Black Party is a yardstick for the upcoming event at the Malaysian capital to be measured up against, I have a feeling the KL version is going to be even more spectacular! If you would like to know why the Singapore party was so cool, please click here to read my blog post about it. Meanwhile, here’s a glimpse of what the Jet Black Party was like…

I didn’t take a lot of photos and videos during the Johnnie Walker Jet Black Party because as you can tell from the video, I was too busy enjoying myself as a gyrating octopus! Gosh, I dance like I had tentacles instead of arms when I’m tipsy. Reminds me of those plastic tube dolls with a fan blowing beneath them and their hands waving wildly to attract attention at a car dealer or carnival. No idea what they are called, but I call my dancing… “tragic”.

So, the Black Circuit Party will be my chance at redemption, to ‘progress’ my body language of groove. And it seems there will be plenty of opportunities to practice my Justin Bieber Timberlake with 4 who’s who deejays from both sides of the Pacific Ocean…

– Superstar mix-vixen DJ Sophia Lin (USA)
– Show-stopping DJ Bento (Tokyo)
– Definitive Hip Hop DJs in Asia : DVDJ I-Tek (Hong Kong) and DJ Faith (Malaysia)

My legs are twitching already while writing their profiles down. I may even get to meet and talk to them during the trip! Woot! Woot!

To add another rung to my upward ladder of excitement, here’s a preview of what to expect at the Johnnie Walker Black Circuit Party with a personal invitation by Lewis Hamilton…

With the party trailer, I shall sign off this pre-trip post to start picking my wardrobe for glamour this weekend. If you’re out celebrating victories, personal progress or just to have a good time, make it Johnnie Walker! And remember, drink responsibly 🙂 Cheers!

Legend of the Seas – Port Klang (Malaysia)

Darren : “Hello Kuala Lumpur, my old friend! It’s been quite a while that we haven’t met.”

KL : “You used to visit me at least once every year, but I’ve been missing you since 11 August 2008. What happened?”

Darren (apologetically) : “Erm… I love your retail therapy and food, but that’s all you offer. There’s nothing new or happening with you.”

KL (hurt) : “Why do you only seek what’s new with me? Have you ever found out what’s HAPPENED to me? Do you know how I got my name? Why many Hindus come to me? Or the treasure I hold that is the source of national pride?”

Darren (guiltily) : “No, I was too caught up with doing what was easy and never bothered to look deeper. Tell you what, this shore excursion offered by Legend of the Seas, I’m going to choose one tour that’ll let me know more about you.”

KL (smiling) : “Thank you my old friend! Good to see you again. And oh my, how you’ve put on that middle-age weight in the last two years.”

7 Dec 10 (Day 2) - We arrived at Port Klang, Malaysia, and guests are free to stay onboard to enjoy the activities for the day or join a shore excursion.

And so amongst the five land excursions offered by Legend of the Seas onboard the Isles of Southeast Asia cruise with stops at Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Phuket, I chose the Batu Caves and City Experience Tour for a more historical exploration of my old friend in Malaysia. Our gateway to the Malaysian capital city is the cruise immigration at Port Klang.

I went on the Batu Caves and City Experience tour which costs US$89. Space for the various tours are limited and tickets sold on a first-come-first-serve basis so book yours early to avoid disappointments.

Port Klang is the largest and busiest port in Malaysia and among the world’s top 20 ports for transhipment and container traffic. But it felt like the boondocks for a passenger who just alighted from a luxury cruise. The area is pretty sedate and mostly industrial. To get any action, we have to take an hour’s coach ride into Kuala Lumpur.

Yee Leong and I were all set to capture the sights of our KL land tour! But looking at his photos after, he definitely took much more interesting shots. I've learnt to see so many new angles through his photos.

Our land trip will take us to the Independence Square (Dataran Merdeka), Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, lunch at Dorsett Regency Hotel, and KL Tower. Although the tour was quite a rush, it’s a great way to explore some of the top sights in the city with comfort and the convenience of transport. Our tour guide, Elango was also at the top with the history of Malaysia and the places we visited.

And I’m glad to be exploring with Yee Leong who has a very keen eye for photography and a natural ability to get his human subjects to share with him their stories. For Yee Leong’s excellent Chinese post of our experience, please click here. We disembarked the ship at 7:30 am to begin our tour which ended at 4:30 pm (8 hours)

Our first stop was a 15-minutes browse of the Independence Square, a.k.a. the Padang, a.k.a. Dataran Merdeka. The day was overcast and gloomy. A perfect weather to explore a shelterless tourist attraction but the photos are gonna need a lot of colour enhancements with Photoshop to not look like black and white shots.

To compensate for this problem, Mui Yee, who took another land tour package to explore KL but had the Dataran Merdeka in her itinerary as well, used Photoscape to create some fancy colouration effects to enhance her photos. I’ve not tried the program, but according to her, it’s a freeware. So you may want to try it out to enhance your holiday pictures, especially on a grey day. To check out Mui Yee’s creative use of the program, please click here.

The Independence Square was formerly known as the Selangor Club Padang before being renamed as Dataran Merdeka on 1 January 1990.

The Dataran Merdeka is the place where Malaysia first celebrated its independence on 31 August 1957 and has since been the usual venue for the country’s annual National Day Parade. There are a number of historic landmarks around the square but we didn’t get to visit except for some quick photos of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (which currently houses the offices of the Malaysian Ministry of Information, Communications, and Culture) and the St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral.

Influenced by the Indian Moghul style of architecture, the stately Sultan Abdul Samad Building is a key historical landmark that watches the Independence Square by its side.

Behind the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is the meeting of two rivers. This convergence is of great importance to KL. If you would like to find out why is it important, read to the end of this post. (I know, the length of this post is a test of patience!)

If I had more time, I would definitely love to explore within the buildings and the other historic remnants in this district but we were herded back on the coach as quickly as we alighted. Elango apologised for the rush because we definitely have to be back at Port Klang by 4:00 pm as the ship has paid for docking charges till 5:00 pm. Maybe in my next trip back, I’ll make it a point to come back for more.

After about a half-hour’s drive, we arrived the main attraction of our tour… the sacred Hindu mountain temples at Batu Caves. I’ve been here once when shoulder pads were still cool so I don’t have much recollection of the place. But I was sure my childhood memory didn’t record this gigantic golden statue standing guard at the foot of the caves!

Entrance of Batu Caves temple with a 42.7m statue of the Hindu deity, Lord Murugan inciting a majestic gold welcome. Such splendour!

Batu Caves is famous for being one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India dedicated to Lord Murugan. The limestone mountain that houses the caves is said to have risen from the sea (because of seashell fragments found within the rocks) and estimated to be around 400 million years old.

A Hindu devotee offering a kavadi (burden) in sacrificial thanksgiving or as a form of penance-making. Milk or rice is usually used as offering in these silver pots.

Every year during the Hindu festival, Thaipusum, Batu Caves becomes a hive attracting more than one million devotees and thousands of tourists. Even during the off-peak period, Hindu devotees still comes here for prayers and devotional rituals such as this elderly man carrying a simple kavadi on his head.

It was heart-warming to see that he wasn’t making the spiritual journey alone and his family was there to climb the steps with him, holding him, supporting him, till they reached the main temple at the inner cave. I saw all these not because I stalked them but our paths crossed a couple of times both on the way up and down. Perhaps we are destined to meet.

Beware the monkeys at Batu Caves! They will find an opportunity to snatch your food or any loose knick knacks hanging loosely around you especially plastic bags that look like they contain food.

To get to the caves, we have to climb 272 steps to the top. It sounds daunting but it is definitely not a suicide mission. I’ve seen quite a few elderlies traversing the stairway with much greater ease than I did. But having said that, don’t expect this to be a walk in the park either. Especially when your every move is being watched by bandit monkeys!

If you keep moving, it’s fine. But when you stop to rest for a while, be vigilant of your belongings. The monkeys have the audacity to come up and snatch half-eaten food right from your hand. I don’t understand how someone can eat while panting from the climb but that’s what one lady was doing. Mid way up, she decided to stow her remainder food away and as soon as her hand came down with the plastic containing her chow, a monkey snatched it.

That happened just a few steps ahead of me. Seeing that, I slowly turned to look at my right side, the side closest to the forested slope and saw two monkeys staring at me. I took some photos of them, tightened my grip on my camera and ascended the steps ever faster.

Entrance to the cave temples and shrines. Batu Caves is a system of limestone cavities with the highest temple being built about 100m above ground level within it.

Entering the vaulted cave is like being transported into another world. It's simply breathtaking.

The rather steep stairs weren’t the only challenges I faced at Batu Caves. The other big headache was trying to get the exposure right due to the extreme lighting conditions within the cave.

With my half-past-six camera handling knowledge. It took me quite some time to get my settings right. Then a few steps in, my settings have to change again.

The caves have got potential for quite some nice shots because of the contrast created by Hinduism’s very colourful expressions against the stoic serenity of nature. But alas, I need to brush up on my photographic skills before being able to best capture that lively tranquility.

If I go again, I’ll need to acquire an external flash and bring my tripod along. But thinking about climbing those stairs with so many equipments… *shudder*

The main cave temple at the inner sanctum of Batu Caves. It looks surreal sitting under the natural skylight of the limestone cave.

Apart from technical and equipment inadequacies, time wasn’t on my side to experiment during this tour. We were given one hour at Batu Caves and if we didn’t report back to the coach on time, it will leave without us and we have to catch a cab to our next destination.

I think I was about a minute or two late and they weren’t kidding about leaving me behind. Thankfully, Yee Leong stopped the coach and I managed to get on. Thanks a lot buddy!

From one of nature’s wonders, we were transported to a wonder of man’s artistry in the form of elegant pewter wares. Our next stop was the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre. It’s about a 15-minutes ride from Batu Caves.

I find the location of the centre and factory somewhat peculiar. Out of what seemed like a largely residential estate stood the home of this iconic Malaysian export. The unsurpassed quality and aesthetic calibre of Royal Selangor branded pewter echoes far and wide. But where the swanky, ultra-hip centre is situated, one wouldn’t expect to find it within such a nondescript neighbourhood.

Royal Selangor Visitor Centre - Home of the largest tankard in the Guinness Book of Records.

Doesn't it look like we're entering some futuristic vehicle for space travel? But it is in fact a time machine that 'took' us back to the beginnings of pewtersmithing in Malaysia.

Royal Selangor was founded in 1885, a period where the tin mining industry was thriving in Malaysia. Since pewter contains about 85-99% tin (according to Wikipedia) alloyed with other metals, the adoption of this very malleable metal as the tin industry’s other sibling is only natural.

One of the most interesting artefacts at the centre’s Pewter Museum was the ancient tin currencies shaped like animals! And they weren’t small and handy change, no they weren’t, but could literally be used as assault weapons. I wonder how do the ancient people lug them around? I sure don’t want to be a rich man in those days!

I was expecting to get that 'factory smell' when enerting the production area but I was surprised to see how clean and speck-free the working area was. No weird smells at all.

We were shown the various stages in the making of a pewter cup. Apparently, pewter can keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for a longer time.

Try your hands at making a pewter-ware the traditional way in the centre's School of Hard Knocks. For a fee, visitors can get a taste of what's it like to be a pewtersmith using traditional tools.

The tour lasted an hour I think. It’s too long in my opinion. I can’t help feeling that the extended stay was so that us tourists can find something to buy. I was browsing and re-browsing the showcase for so long after the heritage and factory tour, I almost whipped out my credit card to purchase some Lord of the Rings figurines. Thankfully I was able to resist their spells because I’m not a collector although they look great and were on discount.

As a whole, this part of the tour was pretty educational and interesting. The fine craftsmanship and details accorded the pewter products were very enticing to own a piece and they were priced within reach. However, I felt we could’ve accorded some of the time here to stay longer at Batu Caves. Then again, that’s just my preference. You cannot please everybody.

After Royal Selangor, we were brought to a photographic spot for the Petronas Twin Towers en route to lunch. I’ve seen and photographed the strapping skyscrapers on numerous occasions and in my view, much better vantage points so I didn’t go shutter crazy at where we were brought to.

We spent a few minutes to get some “I’ve been here” shots before proceeding to lunch. I was famished because I had a very light breakfast prior tour to avoid needing a place to ‘bake’ while on the road. It was a short drive to our lunch venue – Dorsett Regency Hotel.

The hotel’s visage was screaming for a makeover but the interior was cozy and comfortable. Too cozy perhaps. The dining tables were kinda small to sit four. Food-wise, the selection and taste got my thumbs up. Although the food portion was cozy like the tables, the spread was decent for such a petite buffet dining area.

There’s the usual cold dish section with boiled prawns and fresh oysters (although they barely refilled it after the first round), meats section, vegetable stir-frys, Western, Eastern, desserts, etc, but my favourite were the Thai Mango Salad and this do-it-yourself steamboat section.

The exterior of the hotel beguiles this quaint little buffet restaurant that is unpretentious and offers some pretty great tastes. My only groan is for it to please refill the prawns and oysters. After the opening presentation, those two items didn’t look like they ever got replenished. Erm… this is a buffet right?

Our last stop was the KL Tower, formally known as Manara Kuala Lumpur. It is a telecommunications tower built atop Bukit Nanas to improve the quality of telcomm and broadcasting transmission.

Needless to mention, we’re here to get a 360 all-round view of the KL skyline. The view alone is worth making the trip!

Completed in May 1996, the KL Tower was the tallest structure in the city standing at 421m before it was overtaken by the Petronas Twin Towers in 1998 with a height of 451.9m.

Elements of Islamic art and architectural flavour adorn the KL Tower. Look out, or should I say up, as you're entering the lift lobby to admire the Muqarnas-inspired ceiling design.

The dazzling glass ceiling at the centre of the lift lobby adds some star power to this Malaysian icon. The best way to photograph it is to set the camera on self-timer mode and place it on the floor to capture the widest angle possible.

On the Observation Deck, digital audio-visual players are issued and act as a personal guide to point out interesting sights and the different viewing angles.

A parrot is an unusual find at a modern tower but the inclusion of an Animal Zone on the ground level illustrates the developers' eco-mindfulness.

During the development of the tower, special care was taken to protect the forest reserve of Bukit Nanas. Apparently, a special retaining wall was constructed around a 100-year-old Jelutong tree at a cost of RM430,000 to preserve it. I wanted to look for the tree but the Animal Zone and its parrot distracted me. I welcomed the distraction. It’s nice to also admire the biological architecture of nature.

There’s no better way to conclude a visit to KL than a panoramic bird’s eye view of the bustling city. The cityscape must look even more stunning at night. And although I can’t see the estuary which KL got its name from from up at the Observation Deck, I understand now the name of my friend… ‘Kuala’ means the confluence or mouth of a river, and ‘Lumpur’ means muddy.

It was so named in 1857 by the Malay chieftain, Raja Abdullah, who was out looking for a new tin mine and came across this crossroad where the Klang and Gombak rivers met. Today, the confluence is no longer muddy but a paved intersection of two waterways that can be seen from the Sultan Abdul Samad Building I mentioned earlier.

Darren (jubilantly) : “There my friend, I know the origin of your name now.”

KL (pleased) : “Well done, Darren. I’m glad you took the time and effort. And I think climbing those 272 steps has shed some weight off you.”

Darren : “Hahaha… you’re always such a tease. But that’s what I like about you. I have to go now. I’m off to visit another long time friend of ours, Phuket.”

KL : “Take care my friend. Great to have you again and don’t let me wait another two years to see you. Bon voyage onboard Legend of the Seas and send my love to Phuket!”

KL-ed, Sick and Overspent

I commemorated 08/08/08 with yet another KL escapade. Well, actually, it’s not much of an escapade since this is the umpteenth time I’ve been there doing much the same things, just at slightly different locations. I had decided to make the trip mainly as a celebration of sorts for Eugene, and partly also because I wanted a vacation and going anywhere that required flying is too expensive nowadays. But I think I majorly overspent this holiday.

Darn of all darns, I fell sick before the trip and my nose ran all the way from Singapore to KL and back, all 4 days 3 nights. So with shopping bags in one hand, and tissue sheets in the other, I sneezed and signed my way through the malls and clubs of KL. I think my credit card caught my flu too ‘coz it left trails of blue (sometimes black) mucus on countless receipts and bills.

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TRAVEL FACTS :

Transport : RM200 (S$85.10)

3 of us took a friend’s car and it worked out to be RM100 per person each way for petrol and toll charges. We fed the car 3 times (petrol cost : RM138 + RM74 + RM100) and had to pay 3 tolls along the way (S$4.90 + RM$40.80 + RM10.80).

Travel Time :

Depart SGP (9.00am) → Arrive KL (12.30pm)
Depart KL (2.00pm) → Arrive SGP (7.30pm; traffic jam at Singapore Tuas Customs)

There are 2 lanes designated for private cars for entry into Singapore. However, many will cut the queue from the 3rd lane meant for lorries and buses. Our car was in the 2nd lane so we had to constantly keep close to the vehicle in front to stop any car from eating into our queue. For the law-abiding, the best lane to be in is the 1st lane (rightmost lane) as you don’t have to deal with those road sharks. Trying to fend off these cheaters caused us to get into a minor accident. No big deal, just a few scratches near the front left-tyre cavity.

Accommodation :

8 – 9 Aug – Replica Inn Bukit Bintang, RM172 (SS73.20 per person for 2 nights)
11 Aug – Imperial Hotel, KL (Formerly known as Sheraton Imperial), US$30 (S$50 per night)

Replica Inn is a standard budget hotel with just the basics (no pool, no gym, no fridge, no safe deposit, no restaurant or room service). The room is clean with a huge bathroom that is fuss-free in its design. The location is really great as it’s at one end of the popular food street, Jalan Alor, and just across from Bukit Bintang Plaza. But it can get a bit dusty and noisy since its right at the heart of action.

Imperial Hotel is what luxury is all about. I’m so used to budget travelling that anything with just a splash of color on the room’s wall would make me see multiple stars. My friend redeemed some of his mileage points so we paid only US$30 a night for the room. I don’t know what the rack rate is but staying on the 35th floor with such a great view, I would imagine the original price to be equally eye-popping.

Imperial RoomEverything is perfect about this hotel. The room is gorgeous with a contemporary oriental design; the bathroom is well-mirrored (a great place to get romantic, if you know what I mean…); the gym doesn’t make me feel like a hamster on a wheel, the pool is positioned along the path of the sun with comfy, cushioned deck chairs and tents; the lobby is grand with layers of cascading marble stairs; and I discovered the deep relaxation of hot-cold jacuzzi at its spa recess.

I’ve heard of the practice where one gets hydraulically massaged in a hot jac and then going immediately into an adjourning cold pool. Without a thought, I stuck my leg into the hot pool only to realize that that thing can make soup out of me (you see, I’ve only been to jacs no warmer than my pee so far). And when I played human thermometer at the cold pool, I thought of the Arctic. It’s pure Nazi therapy. But I tried. As I slowly immersed myself in the hot jac, the heat sent serious goosebumps all over my body that’s still out of water. But once my body got accustomed to the warmth, it was just like soaking in any normal jac. I boiled myself for about 10 minutes. I think the steam must’ve dissolved grey matter along with my tension for I did the unthinkable… I crossed over to the other side.

The water was ice-cold but I felt so comfortable in it. I think fried ice-creams must feel that way too, just reversed. The feeling was indescribable. Heat emanated from my body, cold peeling it away. It was calming, soothing, relaxing, relieving, refreshing, serene, tranquil, peaceful, lulling… ah… and I stretched out my legs. Then the cold bit me right away. Stay in one position and it felt nice. Move around, and pleasure became torture. So staying in one’s comfort zone isn’t always a bad thing. Well, at least until it starts getting uncomfortable.

Exchange Rate : S$1.00 = RM2.37 (Fri. rate) – RM 2.32 (Sun. rate)

Travel Insurance : S$28

Total Spent : S$450 + S$75 + S$310 (Credit Card) + S$101.30 = S$936.30!!!!!

Whore Wallet

Gasp! I’m still reeling from having just calculated my total expenditure. My wallet is such a whore! Always opening its flat legs, ejaculating cash and credit card every store I walked into. *sigh* I told myself I won’t shop much this trip because I still have 6 to 7 bags of new clothes I haven’t worn from previous trips. The only consolation is that what I bought this trip are all radically different from the largely singlet and t-shirt ensembles I had accumulated. This time round I went more for casual shirts, jackets and pants.

Total S$56.00I succumb to sales easily and have this habit of storing new clothes and wearing them only after my old ones are worn out. Yet, I get so comfortable in those old garbs, I hardly throw any out. So I still have brand new clothes from previous purchases, some up to 3 years ago, still nicely folded and wrapped up in plastic bags. But I had given some out because I can’t fit into them anymore. Those wretched cloth time-bombs, so unforgiving of age and a few extra pounds. So I better start wearing them soon or conduct a closet sale.

This trip to KL I discovered One Utama, another mega mall that’s slightly further out from the city. Thanks to David who took us there or I wouldn’t discover how loose my wallet was. But frankly, all the malls are infected by chain retailers and they carry similar products. It was just a matter of who has the right sizes or a slightly wider range. I’m quite a fan of the local brands Padini Authentics, PDI, and Seed. This time round I bought into Malaysian designers Key Ng and Michael Ong, mostly ‘coz they were on sale. Key Ng’s designs are very wayang and what female impersonators might wear on their days off, but his clothes are a nice fit for me. Initially I thought the designs were outlandish and didn’t cast another look, but once I tried the more somber pieces on, my wallet opened its lips. Michael Ong is more understated and I bought 2 super low-neck long-sleeved pullovers. Don’t know if I’ll have the guts to wear them in Singapore though.

Silly Drunk Pics

The other large chunk of my travel budget went down in pisses. Drinking in KL is only slightly cheaper than in Singapore so with that minor discount at the back of my mind, I spent much more than I would on a night out back here. Here’re some bar prices from the clubs we went to :

Absolut Vodka (0.75L) – RM300
Carlsberg beer (bottle) – RM20
Lychee Martini – RM30
Beer on tap (jug) – RM38.50 (happy hour), RM61 (after 1am)

Went to more or less the same places except for Ratkem Celap on Saturday night. This club was pretty obscure and rather out of the way. It looked like a bungalow converted into a party house with outdoor patios and a small, oblong dance floor, which was packed. Given that the door bitch had an attitude so grim, I wouldn’t make the extra effort there next time.

Vodka Power

Of late, I had grown a penchant for photographing friends when they’re in a very susceptible state for embarrassing poses. I, too, don’t escape the fate of my Nokia N82 5-mega pixel eye. Edison Chen would’ve admired my camera work. But that’s the fun part of getting drunk, to be possessed by the ability to act silly. And also have the pics as a refresher when alcoholic amnesia sets in. I used to think that it is bull crap when friends tell me they can’t remember a drunk when they’re drunk. Now, I’m experiencing memory lapses when I’ve gone too far off the end. I don’t even remember bits and pieces. It’s a total mental block or a very slow recall. Time to cut back on the drinks before I lose more of my existence.

Despite my flu, unfamiliar travel buddies and a reprehension that I would have much fun in this KL trip, I must say the score card added up pretty well with stories to tell. For one, I had witnessed the birth of an ear-licker. Ha.

The KL in knell

Knell /nel/ n (usu sing) the sound of a bell rung slowly after a death or at a funeral.

The acronym of Kuala Lumpur spelt and summed up the knell of a time I had during this most recent trip. Maybe it’s because I had been to KL too many times within the past 3 years and my last trip was only about 3 months ago. The shopping is still great, especially since it’s going to be Hari Raya Puasa soon and so the height of the sale frenzy. Food-wise, it is good value because of the exchange rate, but clubbing is a less than fun experience compared to Singapore.

We went to Farginnapi Bar, Onovu and Namiso and they charged an entrance fee of between RM$25 to RM$30 for one standard drink. Onovu serves the worst vodka orange I had ever tasted. The orange juice is diluted and there’s hardly any taste of vodka in it at all. The bar price is RM$20 for a bottle of Heineken Beer and RM$80 for a jug of vodka orange. Apparently, the KL dwellers only club on Saturday. I don’t know if that’s because of the month of Ramadhan, but Onovu was rather empty on Friday, full on Saturday, and closed on Sunday. Namiso was opened on Sunday but you can number the patronage easily.

SKYBRIDGE de-TOUR

Other than that, I still didn’t get to go on the Skybridge tour of the Petronas Twin Towers. I read that we have to queue for about 1 to 2 hours to get the free tickets for the tour and only 1,300 free tickets are issued daily. During the weekends, people start queuing as early as 7.30am for the first tour that starts at 8.30am. There’s an exhibition about the Twin Towers and Skybridge on the ground level but you’re allowed only 10 mins on the Skybridge itself. The Skybridge is on the 41st level of the towers and offers a vantage view of KL city. However, part of that view is blocked and a better way to view the city is to actually go to the KL Tower instead. A taxi driver told us that some 5-star hotels have tickets reserved and will release it to their guests, or you could pay someone RM$15 per ticket to queue for you. The queue is shorter during the weekdays, but the tour is closed on Mondays. So after considering the odds, we decided to give the Skybridge a miss and also because we didn’t wake up early enough.

KL Oct 2007

TRAVEL FACTS

Transport : Transtar Premium 39-seater coach (S$47.00) / Transtar First Class 16-seater coach (S$41.00)

Travel Insurance : S$28.00

Departure (SGP) : 5 Oct 07, Friday, 8:30am, Golden Mile Complex (Arrived at KL 1:30pm)

Departure (KL) : 8 Aug 07, Monday, 6:00pm, Pasarakyat (Arrived SGP at 10:00pm.)

Accommodation : Capitol Hotel Deluxe Room, RM$230 per night (RM$70 per night for additional bed).

Sandwiched between Plaza Sungei Wang and Plaza Low Yat, the hotel is really right at the heart of the major shopping complexes. But, good location is the ONLY advantage this hotel has to offer. The hotel and room looks neat and spanky (as compared to some of the other worn-out mid-range hotels around Bukit Bintang area), but the room is really small and the hotel is skim on facilities. There is no swimming pool, no gym, no bathtub in the toilet, and does not include breakfast. And the service staffs have no smiles.

The safe deposit box in the room was jammed and I had to call the reception 3 times in over half an hour before someone finally came and fix it. And the receptionist sounded like she was either going to faint from her Ramadhan fasting or Marilyn Monroe drawing her dying breath. Then on our second night, the tap in the shower burst and we had to change room. The new room, which was just across from our old one, had a weird layout. The room door was just in front of the cupboard door and they open into each other. But that was all still acceptable.

What wasn’t acceptable was the fact that we booked a wake-up call, but that call never came! A morning call is probably the most basic service that a hotel needs to get right. We booked a call for 10am so that we could make it to the Skybridge by 11am to get a ticket for the tour. We weren’t woken up at 10am and by the time we roused from bed, it’s too late to get a ticket. Thankfully it wasn’t a life and death matter. Imagine if we were to miss a flight or business meeting just because the hotel cannot be relied on for a morning call? There’re 3 of us in the room so it can’t be all 3 not hearing it and I’ve known hotels to knock on your door if you fail to pick up the morning call. And one of my friends actually heard the reception staff bickering right in front of a customer. I didn’t see it personally, but if that was true, then I would’ve experienced the worst in hotel service.

Exchange Rate : S$1.00 to RM$2.29 (Travel Expenses : S$400, exclude transport, accommodation and insurance.)

WHAT I LEARNT ABOUT MYSELF DURING THIS TRIP

1) That I can still dance like a caffeinated monkey who had too much sugar for more than 2 hours, non-stop, no drugs.

2) That I’m more impatient than I thought I am patient.

3) That I’m less forgiving than I believed myself to be.

4) That I can never be romantically attracted to someone too much younger than me.

5) That I cannot resist buying something that I don’t need just because it is cheap.

6) That I continue to eat, even though I’m already full, as long as there’s still food on the table.

THE BEST THING DURING THE TRIP

We met this most charming waitress at Olio Dome located at Lot 10. The Indian girl is all smiles and chatty with a warmth that is sincere and very natural. So compelled were we by her personable service that we each wrote her a compliment on the feedback forms. I think her name is Kiruba. One smile can really soothe a bumpy mile…

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