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.

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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.

Day 2: Haggling it out

After a breakfast of a variety of bread that we bought last night, we were off to the Central Market. From outside, the place looks a bit old and similar to most ordinary cheap market which is common in the Philippine provinces. Upon entering it, however, would change all that impression. Inside is mixture of souvenir items, watches, shirts, jewelry stuffs and other items that will surely make one dizzy at the same time thrilled. What I like about this place is that right in the middle of the market are restaurants, coffee shops and, once again, bread stores. We’d learn later, that all over KL, there’s Berry, Bread Talk, Bread Story and Bread History, to name a few and all of which sells almost the same product line, almost same good taste, but just different prices.

Inside the Central Market.
I conclude that Malaysians love bread.

Lunch for today was just at a nearby mall. What’s remarkable about the food courts here is that they are self-service. They’ll serve you rice on a plate and will then let you do the picking of the viands.  Prices are determined according to the amount of food on your plate–no set menu price. Nice, right?

After the hearty meal, we went to Petaling Street (aka Chinatown) which is just across the mall. This place is comparable to the Philippine’s Divisoria in terms of merchandise: fake watches, shoes, shirts, bags, and other items—mostly bootleg. It is also a good place to buy souvenirs here. Be ready though with your haggling skills.

Feeling the effect of the dizzying hunt for a good bargain, the group finally called it quits in Chinatown. We agreed it was time for us to see the famous mighty Petronas Twin Towers

From Petaling, we took the bus to KLCC. It was our first bus ride and it costs us only RM 0.7 each or just about 10 Philippine pesos. Other than the cheap fare, we noticed that Malaysian buses are numbered according to their route unlike in the Philippines where we our drivers hang destination tags in front of their windshield.

Stepping out of the bus we found ourselves facing the imposing Malaysian Towers. It was just an awesome sight and so tempting to just get in it but we learned from other people that a visit to the towers’ sky bridge is impossible in the afternoon so we tried to make the most of the day’s visit.

Situated between the two towering structures is the Suria KLCC mall. In the middle of its court is BMW’s team F1 car on display. Other F1 related activities like F1 simulator drive and ticket sales to Sepang are ongoing. Setting any embarrassment aside, we gave in to the urge and posed in front of the displays. This is one time when any opportunity to pose near an F1 artifact is worth risking. By the end of our coffee break at the mall’s Dunkin Donut outlet, we went across to exit at the other side. And yes, the two giants are still there.

Who else is on display but Team Petronas in the middle of mall.

One thing I learned from reading photography tips is to avoid cliché shots. But who cares? We are at the famous Petronas Tower. We can’t help but pose just as everyone did—get in the frame and make sure that the towers’ tip and structure is in the background. We repeated those cliché shots over and over. Different pose, different angle, different location. But both towers had to be there. We didn’t mind the weird stares from other tourists. For sure, they’ll do likewise anyway.

Petronas Towers, Malaysia
Can’t help but do what everyone does–pose in front of the towers.

After almost filling my camera’s memory card and after feeling a bit of neck strain we agreed that it was time to go somewhere else like Lake Garden. It was late in the afternoon already when we arrived. There’s an event at the park where throngs of people have gathered in front of the stadium and we learned it’s a rock concert. At that point I was actually curious and interested if the band would play songs in English or Malay. We tried to wait for it but the humidity’s taking its toll on us. We got tired, sweaty and hungry, and with my wife forcing a smile (a warning sign), we decided to leave even before the concert has started.

To end the day, we had dinner again at Bangsar but this time at Sri Nirwana, which serves mostly Indian food. The place was packed with a various customers, locals and foreigners alike. Again, they don’t serve beer, which again could have come great with the spicy food served on banana leaf. Once more, we dined alfresco.

We had a hard time flagging a teksi after the meal. The passing BMW’s, Benz’s, compact cars and a variety of interesting Protons somehow had a de-stressing effect on me while waiting for the elusive taxi which came after more than an hour later. Taxis are that scare in Malaysia.

Day 1: Our first Nasi Lemak

The one-hour trip and late afternoon arrival at the hotel sent our stomach grumbling and begging for food. But our hunger disappeared once we got to check in on our room or better called our home for the next seven days. Calling it a room would be a misnomer as it is one with two levels and two bedrooms with each room having its own toilet and bath. It also has a living room with comfy couches and a fully equipped kitchen. What more can we asked for something we paid for just Sing$125 for a one-week accommodation.

Room’s spiral staircase.
The cozy living room.

Soon, however, our protesting stomach cannot be ignored and it signaled our first authentic Malaysian experience. Fifteen minutes away from our hotel is Bangsar, a place where several upscale restaurants and shopping area are located. Even then, we went directly to a food court in one block where the banner bearing the big words ‘Nasi Lemak’ grabbed our attention. We all agreed that there’s no better way to eat our first Malaysian cuisine than alfresco. So despite the dimly lit area, we mingled with other diners who were enjoying their meal just along the side of the main street.

Nasi Lemak served fast, so fast we did not capture the bare hands.

Nasi Lemak is a popular local food that consists mainly of chicken, egg and several other sidings not to mention the variety of spicy sauces and dips available. What makes it more interesting is its preparation– most ingredients were picked and placed with the seller’s bare hand. But who cares anyway, the food was great. What I find unfortunate though is that due to their religious restrictions, they don’t serve beer (or any other liquor), which I know would have been perfect with such spicy food.

Been To Malaysia for real

It’s been almost a month already when we had our vacation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Even until now, during pauses in between work and other activities, I would find myself wondering if I had been to Malaysia for real. It was as if the 7-day trip went by so fast as an F1 car would in one lap.

Come to think of it, it was our F1 fanaticism that started this trip in the first place. My wife and I planned this trip, initially, just to see the 2007 F1 Sepang race. Sooner we’d learn that the minimum number of days our time share account would allow us is one week. Well, who gets upset over an extended vacation? If there’s anyone, it won’t be us. So to make this a vacation more fun, we convinced her brother and sister-in-law to tag along.

 Our trip started on a Good Friday.

The airline was Airasia. Despite the long drive from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Diosdado Macapagal Internation Airport we arrived earlier than expected in Clark, Pampanga. From there, our 4-hour flight to KLIA-LCCT started by 11:45 a.m. as scheduled.

The flight was smooth and uneventful, as the weather was good. Even with the absence of in-flight entertainment—no TV, no games—the sight of distinct Malaysian flight attendants came as a bonus.

 Upon arrival at LCCT and after checking out from immigration, we were picked by a taxi service that took us to Duta Vista Executive Suite in Persiaran Ledang after an hour of interesting trip. I can still remember when I had to peer through the van’s window when I saw the Petronas Twin Towers dominating the afternoon skyline. Yup, we’re in Malaysia indeed.

Duta Vista.

Finally! Fast Cars!

Finally! F1 Sepang Tickets at last!!!!!!! Pardon the exclamations, but it’s been our much-awaited event for this year. Since my wife and I fell in love with this fast-paced sport, we’ve been dreaming of watching it live. I was thinking last year that if ever we’d have to get out of this country for a vacation together, it would be the best place and time to do so. I just don’t know if she’s been thinking the same thing too or even ahead of me though I just know that she’s been dying to see either Michael Schumacher or Kimi Raikkonen in person, win or lose. So when I eventually blurted out, “we need a vacation abroad” there was no protest whatsoever. F1 Sepang is really it, Disneyland is just so out of the picture.

So today, after a couple of months since we purchased the tickets online (and doing some blunder during the transaction) and after all the anxiety of waiting for it to be delivered, it’s now in our possession and in pristine condition. Those guys (especially one named Muna) in malaysiangp.com did a very good job. Sepang, here we come!!!

My 1st Badminton Tournament

“Clear your mind of can’t.” – Samuel Johnson

My wife and I started playing this racket sport almost four years ago. On day one we already got hooked. Just like any other person we knew, we started just for the fun of it and with the hope of shedding some pounds. As we went along, we met others who also had the same interest. Slowly we got more eager to learn the badminton game and rules and so the number of sessions got more frequent and intense than before. We became “baddicts” in no time. The thought of being matched and compete with someone eventually pushed me to test myself.

March 24. Summer. Hot and humid. My much-awaited day, my first badminton tournament. With great anticipation, energy and excitement, I woke up early, packed my stuffs and had a full breakfast of coffee and oatmeal.

By 8 a.m.  I was already at Racquettaz Badminton Club—a 15-minute drive from home. The place was already bustling with activity when I arrived. Organizers paced back and forth to make sure that everything is in order. Other players were busy checking their match schedules while the rest warmed up and did shadow lunges, smashes and footwork exercises. Almost everyone was so eager to get it on.

After a short opening remark, invocation and a pledge to sportsmanship, the Intel-Analog dual meet commenced. All of the venue’s seven courts were soon filled with players, umpires and supporters from both sides.

Since it was my first time to be in a match, I was classified as a level C player. I would play mix doubles with Joan whom I met and played with just a couple of days ago but I already got high hopes that we’d do well. And we did.

We had five scheduled matches. Once we got called for the first match, I was half-eager half-nervous as I approached court number four. The first few rallies were like getting-to-know my partner and our opponent. After a couple of scores, I was beaming with confidence. Our winning streak went on until the end of the fourth match.

I was already telling myself that we can likewise win match five. But this was different. The first half was full of errors from our side, specifically from me. I hit clears so strong that overshoots the farthest line; did low serves with the net as the frequent receiver; and pushed drives right in front of our opponents’ racket, to their delight, and to my partner’s dismay.

On the second half though, hope came up. Joan’s skills and confidence remained and we recovered some lost points until we reached a 20-20 score. We went on a race to score 3. Unfortunately, my beginner’s luck ran out. We had to face defeat in 1-3. We left court number six feeling bitter and disappointed knowing that we could have done better. But it’s how competition goes–one wins, the other loses, one partner sucks.

Despite the competitive atmosphere, the whole match levels from A to C went well, friendly and fun. The photo ops were even well participated by everyone from either company. In the end, Intel grabbed the overall championship and I know for a fact that we always do. And so, I went home exhausted but proud, knowing that this time I was among those who contributed to that win.