Got Hooked On Numbers

I hate to admit it, but I hate numbers. Ever since I started going to school, I despised any activity that has something to do with it. That goes on without saying that I hate math. As a graduate of a course related to electronics engineering (and just last year, as a computer engineer) I had to bear with the fact that I can’t escape the reality that I have to face and deal with problems involving calculations and computations on a regular basis. Thankfully, I didn’t fail any of those “numbers-related” subjects (That doesn’t include my previous Mechanical Engineering course which was spent learning BMX freestyles in- stead. Come to think of it, it deals with some Physics anyhow). But I didn’t excel in it either. So until now I’m still amused every time I remember a classmate mentioning that he’s been peeking at my Calculus test papers for “clues” and was able to pass the exams because of it. How I pulled it off, I don’t know.

By the start of this year, my wife bought this weird puzzle booklet from the supermarket and upon seeing that it was about matching several numbers, I avoided it right away. Had it been a crossword puzzle, I would have been her rival in an instant.

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Sudoku.

Since that time, I would regularly see her with this booklet and a pencil. I would wonder every now and then if what makes her attracted to play Sudoku puzzles and if it is really worth the time. It went on even during our trip to Malaysia. She also convinced her brother and he got hooked just like her or even worse.

A couple of weeks after we arrived from that vacation (which was a wonderful one, despite the Sudoku distractions), I eagerly asked for the weird puzzle and tried my hands and brain on it. Just like a car’s engine left idle for a long time, my brain’s number sector hesitated for a couple of minutes before engaging on the problem at hand – i.e., solve the puzzle rated as one-shuriken. In Sudoku speak, it is the easiest. Time went by and after several mind-boggling hours, and after our floor (and bed sheet) collected mounds of eraser shavings, I realized that I was hooked on this numbers game. I timed my puzzle-solving and clocked 5 minutes or less on some one-shuriken problems. My wife said she has done better. I don’t care. She’s not my competition. My rival is myself. I have likewise solved two- to four-shuriken problems. For how long? Don’t ask. What matters most is that I solved it anyway.

Last night we bought our third booklet. It is rated intermediate. The first page starts with four-shuriken problems and I peeked at the last ones, most of it has diagonal-odd puzzles. In plain words, It can make one crazy. Hehe- hehe. Hahahahahaha. Huhuhuhu. Am I drooling yet?

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Day 8: Putrajaya Drive-By

We were all awake by 2 a.m. and checked out an hour and forty-five minutes later. As we approached the lobby Badri was already waiting for us. He offered his service the first day (Lake Garden day) we met him. I was a bit reluctant to push through with it at first, as his offer was just too good to be true. He’s asking only half the price compared to the hotel’s taxi service. I don’t know if Jericho was a reason for this.

Since we left the hotel ten minutes earlier as planned, Badri was kind enough to give another offer we can’t refuse. He’ll drive us to KL’s new city, Putrajaya. I heard from other guests that this place is a must see especially at night when its lights accentuate the buildings and the rest of the structures.

Putrajaya’s cable bridge.

We arrived at Putrajaya less than an hour later. There were just a few people around and I can count them with my fingers. Badri by then was multi-tasking as a taxi driver and a tourist guide, pointing from left to right and trying to discuss every detail of the whole place. The sight of the illuminated steel bridge was awesome. I had to shift my eye from the video camera’s LCD to appreciate the real thing towering proudly as we passed beneath its mighty steel cables. We likewise passed by a building with the shape resembling a cobra’s head. And true indeed, its lights on top look like one that is ready to strike. (Unfortunately, I haven’t got any good pictures of the place.)

Departing Malaysia.

After another 20 minutes, we were at the airport. Before we got out of the taxi, I got Badri’s address. We have one good person to thank for.

Our departure was past seven in the morning and we arrived after four hours. We’re back to work. Back in the Philippines, back to reality. Cue Psycho movie theme please.

Day 7: Where to Now?

Not Batu Cave but good enough.

This was supposed to be Batu Cave day but with our Malaysian Ringgits running low, we got our heads together after breakfast and discussed how to get the most out of this last day.

With the help of our trusty tourist map, we found a place with a description that reads “Cosmos, Indoor Theme Park” and with a roller coaster image on it. Park ride lovers as we are, my wife and I decided that this will be it. With Noel and Lani, clueless on what to expect, they tagged along nevertheless—the word ‘mall’ in the description also convinced them.

Luckily, we got Badri again. Just like before, he’s still loaded with insight as he describes the places we passed by with great enthusiasm and pride. He got us to Berjaya Times Square in a jiffy.

The place was huge and high as it is actually a hotel and mall in one great package. (Badri dropped us in front of the hotel entrance which sent the bellboys rushing to open our cab. They learned in an instant that we’re not hotel guests when I asked where the roller coasters are.) Sadly, their food court ruined our fascination. The food booths weren’t that accessible because one has to go a long way around the atrium to transfer to the other sections of the food court. It must be their way of getting the appetite going, I assume.

Three of 10th Avenue Food Mall’s customers.

As if trying to test our stomach my wife and I decided to check out the theme park immediately after lunch. We aimed for the roller coaster right away but it’s a no-go, for Noel and Lani this time. We learned that they got dizzy just looking at the coasters in motion.

We eventually found ourselves sitting in one of the cars. There was a bit of mixed emotions once we got ourselves strapped in and the few minutes of waiting just killing us as we were impatiently waiting for the roller coaster to get going so we can experience the G-force. Then the time came.

The indoor theme park.

The coaster ride took less than two minutes. There were some exciting moments but it didn’t meet our expectations. We came out amazed but disappointed—we got out not dizzy and not swearing.

A part of the roller coaster’s loop
Looks harmless but this is better than the roller coaster.

We tried the rest of the rides anyway. Good thing we found some favorites and we were dizzy and smiling again. There was one ride, however, that got us pumped up. It was the innocent-looking Ooort’s express that at first glance, someone looking for a rush would snob it right away. We we’re wrong. This one speeds up like a cat on fire. And its speed was enough for both of us to be squeezed in one side of the cart the whole time. My head and stomach was turning and my hips were aching after the ride. We got what we paid for. Redemption.

It was raining hard when we got in a cab. It was time to go home. It was time to pack up.

Day 6: The Twin Towers

The imposing Petronas Twin Towers.

A tourist’s bragging rights for visiting the Twin Towers isn’t complete if he hasn’t been to the Sky Bridge. So today, as discussed since our day one, we convinced our lazy bodies to move out of the mattresses, left the comfy cool bedroom behind and braved the hot and humid Malaysian climate to be on time for the Petronas Sky Bridge’s pass issuance.

Our group arrived at Petronas past 7 a.m. Seeing that the area is somewhat clear of people we thought that we were the early birds. Good thing we smelled something fishy just after a couple of minutes—who would want to come in late for the opportunity to visit the Sky Bridge? No one.

Instruction on how to queue up.

We were right. After asking for directions and following the way to the visitor’s entrance, tourists have started to queue and accumulate. We estimated that there were already 70 plus visitors including ourselves. The pass per day only accommodates around 200. We were included in the 9:15 a.m. batch.

The Sky Bridge visit we learned wasn’t only just about going straight up and then it will be over. It started with a 3D movie presentation in a small theater and followed by an interactive visit to an activity center where several aspects of the towers’ construction were shown. There is also one display wherein visitors will find their own height compared to the towers by positioning in a portal that automatically computes the comparison at a push of via button. Cool.

The view of the park from the Sky Bridge.

The Sky Bridge visit is limited to approximately 10 minutes only to allow the rest of the visitors for that day. Even then, it was worth enough as the view looking down from the bridge is just as awesome as the view from the outside looking up. One thing I learned from the guide was that the movie Entrapment’s tower scenes weren’t actually shot there but were rather filmed in a studio with a replica of the Twin Towers. That made me hate the movie even more.

At the end of the tour, another place we paid a visit to was the shopping area at Jalan Bunus, which to our surprise and dismay sells mostly textiles for typical Muslim clothing. The whole group didn’t find anything interesting so we checked our map and saw that Central Market is just a couple of blocks nearby.

Despite Lani’s protesting legs we proceeded with the transfer anyhow. We passed by picturesque mosques and buildings along the way that I was busy taking photos and shooting videos. Even one of the public buses didn’t escape my wife’s attention. It has an F1 paint job on it. So posed she did right in front of the curious crowd.

Upon reaching the Central Market, the gloomy sky poured down which gave us a better reason to enjoy a mug of hot coffee and noodles. We found a nice coffee shop in the middle of the shopping center called Old Town White Coffee. Their coffee menu was diverse and unique. Of course, more importantly, the price tag is cheaper than the rest of the cafes in the Central Market and this is one of the cases where you-get-what-you-paid-for line doesn’t apply. The coffee was really good, so good that it could give Starbucks a run for their money.

Coffee and noodles time in Old Town White Cafe.

The cheap but tasty coffee gave us some ringgits to spare for a last minute souvenir shopping. There was this one stall called KL Idea where we spilled our spare bills/coins. The store owners were nice and accommodating and I learned from them that this year is actually Malaysia’s 50th anniversary as a nation. Philippines celebrated our 100th year a couple of years ago. Just saying.

KL Idea in Central Market Malaysia.
The four of us with the owner of KL Ideas.

Day 5: Taman Tasik Perdana

Since we arrived late at the Lake Garden the last time we decided it would be a good idea to explore it more by early morning. Today is the day and we’re going to have a picnic.

Once we finished breakfast, Noel cooked a typical Filipino picnic food—pansit. Peanut butter sandwiches were also prepared and again, I was just the eager kitchen onlooker.

Our taxi driver to the Lake Garden was Badri who just like any other Malaysians we met is a Jericho Rosales fan. He was so delighted when he learned that we’re from the Philippines. He openly told us that he likes Jericho’s movies a lot that he spent several tear-jerking moments watching it. Badri was fun to be with as he talks and smiles a lot. I can sense from the way he talks about everything that he’s one proud Malaysian.

We were supposed to go start our day at the KL Bird Park, which is one of the sections of the garden, but had to cancel it when they saw that the entrance fee would cost each of us RM 35. With me protesting mentally, the three voted to check other attractions around for free or cheap attractions. We did not regret scrapping the Bird Park tour as we soon discovered that some of its birds and aviaries can be seen just along the road.

Sometimes overwhelming directions will get you nowhere.
We got the perfect spot to eat pansit and peanut butter.

Settled in on one of the park’s tables and after enjoying our picnic food, we started to look for the ‘lake’ in the Lake Garden. At first what we saw was somewhat disappointing as the lake appears to have accumulated moss and looks as if it had been stagnant for a long time.

Not to be deterred by the ugly sight we pushed further south and that’s when things began to get interesting once more.

We passed by the Fantasy Planet playground where for a moment we turned into kids as we appreciate the sight of colorful slides, play bridges and spiral bars.

Adults here are allowed to be children again.

As we neared the boathouse, the sky went a bit gray and started to drizzle. So we took shelter, the girls were at the swing while Noel and I under a shed. It was where we got to chat with Rosman who is the area’s security guard.

We talked about a lot of things from park birds, cars, gadgets and even religion. And the more we talk with him the more I learn about what Muslims seem to be like. At this point of our trip, I’ve conversed with a lot actually and I haven’t found any rude ones. They’re actually just like us Catholics, not so different after all.

The sun eventually got past the gray clouds and we continued with our tour of the garden. After quickly finishing our food, the park’s shuttle driver arrived and we got the chance to completely cover the whole Lake Garden paying only RM 0.50 each.

The park’s shuttle bus.

Once the shuttle tour was over we decided it was time to leave. We needed a taxi going back and someone advised that we can just go straight further and we would get a cab from there. That direction led us to an underpass. Not knowing what to expect, we pushed through anyway and soon discovered that we’re heading straight into the National Museum.

And sometimes getting lost is when you discover interesting places.

We checked and it was just 4 p.m. and we still have a couple of hours before closing time. Entrance fee was only RM 2.0 each. One thing I liked in there is that we were allowed to take pictures and videos. What I hated though, was its low light condition and that I was running low on video 8 cartridge space. Ti abi.

Wifey and her bro checking out the National Museum.

To cap the day, we stopped by KL’s biggest mall—Mid Valley Megamall. The myth, actually overheard from colleague, that there’s no big and good mall in Malaysia is now busted totally.

Day 4: Chow Kit & The Monkeys

Chowkit is a contrast of KL’s urban setting.

Just RM8.0 away via teksi from our hotel is Chow Kit where the overwhelming modern urban KL transitions to a more subtle setting. This area is just the ordinary wet market where cheap produce and meat are sold and this is where Filipinos like us will surely find ingredients to cook our favorite adobo—sorry, except for pork.

What makes this place great is that most of the people here are accommodating and easy to deal with. In fact, one market vendor even gave us free chicken asses, or tongking (it is how it sounds to me), probably after noticing my reaction when it was separated together with the head from the poultry we bought—they explained that both are actually sold separately and usually cooked as kebab. (I’m ilonggo so I love this chicken’s rear part. Back home we call it isol. Yummy!)

We hurried home right after buying all the ingredients that we need and after grabbing the opportunity to buy a box of cheap mineral water—like beer, it is expensive in the city proper. It’s time for our first home-cooked meal and time to exploit our lovely kitchen in our hotel room.

The hearty lunch of fried fish, adobo and ampalaya with coconut milk prepared by the group, except me, made us lethargic and left us nothing to do but to monkey around. It was also the best time to open the veranda’s door and let the smell of fried fish out—they forgot to turn the oven’s exhaust hood on. ti abi.

A monkey right outside our window.

We discovered that just outside our room’s balcony is a rich monkey habitat. We spent almost several hours just observing them and at some point offered banana slices which they eagerly retrieved and ate. They’re not alone though in these trees and foliage. There were also squirrels and some endemic birds gliding back and forth along the branches.

***

Enjoying Petaling street at night.

By nighttime, we decided to go back to Petaling Street. The decision was worth it. Chinatown was busier than it was in the morning and more vibrant and colorful as well. The red rounded Chinese lanterns dominating the area and the neon signs glowing with Chinese characters made me feel like a host of a famous travel channel or in a scene of an adventure movie.

Where to find and drink beer although pricey.

The sight of beer drinkers (mostly expats) in front of the restaurants added the sense of delight and longing. I kept reminding myself though that beer is expensive but later grabbed my beers from the nearest 7-11 store. My shopping-addicted companions finished with their haggling just in time for them to accompany me to buy a 1GB Sony memory stick at a mall before it closes. We’ll need the extra memory size tomorrow.

Day 3: The Hottest F1 Race

This is the day! This is what we came here for. Our shuttle ride started at 11 a.m. and the trip took a couple of hours before we reached the Sepang area. The road to the circuit was jam-packed with cars, taxis and buses. On this day, almost all roads lead to Sepang. And with the blistering sun worsening the long queue, other cars had to pull over to cool off while others had to roll down their windows as air-conditioning seems futile. Good thing we had a proud Malay driver giving us insight of the race track, making us more eager to get out of the van and witness the start of the F1 race. We shared the ride with other hotel guests—a German father and son, an Indian couple, and a Filipina with her two sons.

Despite the confusion and uncertainty in our time of arrival, the sight of uniformed fans, who are also stuck in traffic, wearing the dominant red for Ferrari, blue and white for BMW, and yellow and blue for the Renault team sent goosebumps all over my body. It is race day indeed.

Eventually, we arrived at PC3 where we had to take an approximately 100-meter walk to the C3 entrance. Along the way wifey and I sprayed sun block lotion which is a must during this event especially that our ticket is free-seating which makes it more compelling as we’d be under the hot Malaysian sun.

After another hour of waiting and watching some of the pre-race programs, we finally heard the roar and whine of the powerful F1 cars as the pre-warm up lap begins. I was shooting a video and was about to say an introduction, but the excitement of seeing the cars drive by somehow got me emotional and I felt a lump on my throat. I was only able to muster the word ‘Finally!’

Me and the essentials for the race: a cap, sunglasses and a bottle of water. Red shirt is for my  favorite team.

As the Star Sports hosts on TV would say, “…the five lights illuminate…the lights are out…the race is on…” the race started with the two Ferraris in the front row. Unfortunately, everything changed so quickly that by the time it passed turn 8 which was on our right, one of the McLarens already started gaining some distance ahead of the two Prancing Horses.

By the middle of the race it became clear who is winning. It was a bit disappointing to see our favorite team trailing behind the two McLarens that at some point I heard my wife shouting and cheering for another team—she turned coat, hahaha. At the end of the 56 laps the race winners are Alonso, Hamilton and Kimi. The McLaren fans held their flags up high, the Ferrari fans down but my wife didn’t care anymore. There’s no point crying over spilled milk.

It is obvious by now that she has recovered from the Prancing Horse’s loss.

After all the finishers were done with their victory lap, the crowd at C3 started packing up—sadly, leaving most of their trashes behind. It was also pointless to stay because the awarding ceremony is out of our sight.

We met up with the rest of the Duta Vista guests at PC2. The Indian couple’s the lucky one this time. Their team won and somehow, we had fun reviewing the race while our van crawls its way back to the hotel due to heavy traffic. We arrived at the hotel by past 8 p.m.